Sunday, October 30, 2005

to be or not to be

At first, with endless kindness, he carressed me,

Then roasted me in a fire of endless pain.

At the lash of his kindness, the spur of his love, I galloped.

When I became entirely him, he threw me down again.

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

Today, I decided to go in search of the Rumi verse with the lowest numbering even though I have no reason to believe there is any serial significance to those numbers, that is, they don't represent a chronological order as far as I know or can determine. Today's verse also has an alternative or original translation from Zara Houshmand as follows:
At first, with countless kindnesses, he played his song upon me.
Then he roasted me over a thousand sorrows' flames.
At the lash of his kindness, the spur of his love, I galloped.
When I became entirely him, he tossed me to the ground.


... (as well as a transitional version here)

Whether it's a caress or a song, a sorrow or a pain, it is clear that both pleasure and pain, both cruelty and kindness, drive Rumi toward an identification with the other as "he" (part Shams, part God). Once complete, the identification is then discarded. This is because the identity itself takes part in the play of opposites: on again, off again; somewhat true, somewhat false; both beneficial and dangerous, both ecstatic and hurtful.

In Wikipedia's article on Gnosticism, the author(s) write:
Carl Jung and his associate G. R. S. Mead worked on trying to understand and explain the Gnostic faith from a psychological standpoint. Jung's "analytical psychology" in many ways schematically mirrors ancient Gnostic mythology, particularly those of Valentinus and the "classic" Gnostic doctrine described in most detail in the Apocryphon ("Secret Book") of John. Jung understands the emergance of the Demiurge out of the original, unified monadic source of the spiritual universe by gradual stages to be analogous to (and a symbolic depiction of) the emergence of the ego from the unconscious. However, it is uncertain as to whether the similarities between Jung's psychological teachings and those of the Gnostics are due to their sharing a "perennial philosophy", or whether Jung was unwittingly influenced by the Gnostics in the formation of his theories; Jung's own "Gnostic sermon", the Septem Sermones ad Mortuos, would tend to imply the latter. Uncertain too are Jung's claims that the Gnostics are aware of any psychological meaning behind their myths. On the other hand, what is known is that Jung and his ancient forebears disagreed on the ultimate goal of the individual: whereas the Gnostics clearly sought a return to a supreme, other-worldly Godhead, Jung would see this as analogous to a total identification with the unconscious, a dangerous psychological state.
[my emphasis]

I myself regard Rumi as perhaps the very best example of a highly evolved gnostic, both supremely conscious of the psychological meaning of his formulations and supremely articulate in expressing those meanings. His Islamic heresy was precisely this insight into the psychic origins of myth and religious revelation, an insight certainly gained through his teacher and friend Shams. Given the Zen-like quality of those insights, it would also be fair to surmise that Shams had gained a good deal from more Eastern cultures and from Buddhism in particular.

The lunatic asylums are full of people who suffer from ego-Self identification: In Christian countries, they commonly believe they are Jesus Christ Himself. The ego is but the central organizing principal of consciousness, while the Self stands for the totality of conscious and unconscious, known and unknown, day and night, the alchemical Sol and Luna, and so on. Because the Self is initially unconscious, it is easy to identify it with the unconscious (as Allah was identified as the Lord of the Wasteland). Identification with the Self then means annihilation of the ego, which is equivalent to psychosis.

And yet, again and again, Rumi (like many another Sufi) does advocate madness for it is only through such mini-psychoses (preferably temporary and voluntarily undergone) that one can reach an understanding of the true relationship between God and man (and, by implication, between Goddess and woman, deity and humanity). It is the experience that leads to the knowing or gnosis. At that point, the real power or decision lies in choosing to be "that" or not.

Khândogya Upanishad VI, 8, 7:

'Now that which is that subtile essence (the root of all), in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.'

Also translated:

"Tat tvam asi" - "Thou art that, Svetaketu, thou art that."



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