Wednesday, July 20, 2005

the good beyond evil

I'll go a hundred steps beyond reason,

Free from the existence of good and evil.

You are so good that I'm beyond the veil.

Let the clueless know: I will love myself.

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

Search words: next, step

I'm beginning to get sorted and overcoming some frustrating obstacles. I'm feeling positive today and looking to the next steps to take to achieve better health and financial stability. Rumi, I'm hoping, will be a part of that.

This verse is quite bold, almost recklessly heretical. The idea of transcending the very categories of good and evil is found in the Hindu/Buddhist tradition. Islam itself is firmly placed within the mythical story of the good guys (Muslims, on the straight path) versus the bad guys (kafirs or disbelievers, on the crooked path). To speak of transcending that, to refer so clearly to a non-Islamic spiritual teaching, is to speak dangerously, at most if not all times and places in the history of the Muslim world. The "other" for Rumi was embodied in Shams and this "you" posed no threat to him. It is clear in this verse that he understands the "you" as his own shadow or "other" self. Loving Shams, loving God, loving the divine feminine, all of these are but loving "myself". It is not the ego puffed up with its own importance, it is the ego in relationship with the larger self, the broader and higher and lower personality.

One of the ironies of this transcendance of good and evil is that it is inevitably good that is discovered there. If not specifically "the Good", then something joyful, indescribably beautiful, the light of lights, and so on. It is not an eternal dwelling in sunshine but a perception of the eternal light that suffuses both day and night. We are made up not only of our happy moments but also of our sad, angry, frustrated moments. To accept it all as part and parcel of who or what I am is to love myself. That self love is dangerous to declare because it is the pearl of greatest price and therefore the source of greatest envy, jealousy and hate. It's a brave man indeed who declares it within an Islamic world especially, a spiritual world where hatred and resentment are core emotions expressed in and promoted through the central sacred scripture of the Koran. Here it is explaining itself in the first chapter of substance.
2. al-Baqarah: The Cow

Qur'an 2:1-18 (Pickthall, my emphasis)

1 Alif. Lam. Mim.

2 This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil).

3 Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them;

4 And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter.

5 These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful.

6 As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not.

7 Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.

8 And of mankind are some who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day, when they believe not.

9 They think to beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves; but they perceive not.

10 In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increaseth their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie.

11 And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only.

12 Are not they indeed the mischief-makers ? But they perceive not.

13 And when it is said unto them: believe as the people believe, they say: shall we believe as the foolish believe ? are not they indeed the foolish ? But they know not.

14 And when they fall in with those who believe, they say: We believe; but when they go apart to their devils they declare: Lo! we are with you; verily we did but mock.

15 Allah (Himself) doth mock them, leaving them to wander blindly on in their contumacy.

16 These are they who purchase error at the price of guidance, so their commerce doth not prosper, neither are they guided.

17 Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindleth fire, and when it sheddeth its light around him Allah taketh away their light and leaveth them in darkness, where they cannot see,

18 Deaf, dumb and blind; and they return not.

Here is an old man grizzling over the fact that some will not buy his message, cursing them and condemning them to an awful or painful doom. This is the state of bitter resentment that has been hallowed by Islam now for 14 centuries. This is the mood that encourages otherwise healthy young people to blow themselves up while killing and grievously harming many others in the process. This is what is behind the recent London bombings. This is Islam and it is so sick. Thank goodness the human spirit is balanced with what the likes of Rumi can offer.


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