Wednesday, January 04, 2006

reason and revelation

How could the soul that holds your image

Ever fade or decay? The crescent moon,

Though waning, thin and pale, begins its voyage

And grows to full perfection very soon.

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

Search word: soul

I've picked up from the library and am currently reading Milton Viorst's In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam. I also woke with this succinct summing up of the current dilemma between West and East-qua-Islam:

Reason does reason that reason's best,
While revelation likewise points to revelation.

In Islam's early history a theological school called Mu'tazili attempted a marriage of reason and revelation. It is clear from its harsh suppression of the Muslim belief in the Quran's divine authorship that it didn't make a marriage at all but insisted on reason's domination. The Mu'tazili followers were eventually suppressed in their turn and Islam never returned to a consideration of the merits of incorporating reason into its revelatory faith. Even today, Islamic intellectuals that attempt such a task are in a tiny minority and little attention is paid to them. Instead, the writer who has managed to grab Muslim attention, albeit negatively, has been Salman Rushdie who writes as a poet and therefore in the mode of revelation. His Satanic Verses are too powerful to be created by anything other than the divine (or Satanic as Muslims would see it).

Rumi's verse today, sought out through soul, points to the phenomenon of the moon's waxing and waning while referring to holding "your image" which, if other references are called on, would point to Shams as image of the Sun (alchemical Sol). The central aim of the alchemical opus is precisely the marriage of Sol et Luna, the Mysterium Coniunctionis that so fascinated Jung. This pair of Sun King and Moon Queen are variously characterized as opposites like fire and water, spirit and matter, eternal and changing. One possible manifestation of these opposing tendencies is, of course, reason and revelation.

It is no accident that sun symbols like the American eagle predominate in the West while the crescent moon hangs over Islam. It is ironic that the feminine is strong and exposed (as expressed by Madonna) in the West while covered up and suppressed in Islam. It would make far more symbolic sense if the feminine, long associated with the moon cycle, were more prominently upheld in the lands under the sway of the crescent moon. Astrological fantasies might demand that the moon and sun must stand in direct opposition before marriage can be considered and the moon is at its fullest at that point. I'd like to think that Shams and Rumi could foresee this marriage and that the quality of their relationship, fusing reason and revelation, was the sign of its present realization. If they could do it, then others might follow so that, one day, reason alone and revelation alone will become anathema. Their marriage will become the treasure most highly sought.

As Jung believed and I'm sure Rumi also, this marriage takes place in each human soul. It's a waste of time to wait for any political developments or historical unfurlings: the work is to be done in the vessel of the soul and that means by me and you today.


At Thursday, 05 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Interesting. Also, I wonder why the moon came to be associated with feminine, and the sun masculine? How does the moon eclipsing the sun get explained in a male-dominated society?

At Thursday, 05 January, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

The answer to your first question, in a word: menses. The accompanying changes of mood, the emotionality of women, the effect of the moon on the tides, all of these experiences conspired to link the moon with women. Few cultures link the sun with women: German "die Sonne" is exceptional.

The full eclipse of the sun by the moon is probably rare enough to keep male domination in place. However, it is a powerful symbol of the coniunctio as consummated. I was expecting that next step to turn up in your or my own fantasy thoughts. ;)


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