Monday, February 27, 2006


I entered your garden, but not to gather

Anything: a dervish, empty-handed.

Do you want me to go? Open the door.

If not, then don't think bad thoughts either.

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

Key word: garden

I've been reading a new library acquisition by post-Freudian Erich Fromm: To Have or to Be? in which he glances at the concepts of having and being as explicated by the 13th/14th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart. Rumi's lifespan dates are 1207-1273 and Eckhart's are 1260-1328, so they represent roughly contemporaneous strands of mysticism arising out of Islam and out of Christianity. I hope to explore Eckhart and this theme of having/being further in the next few days.

I also continue to be engaged in forum discussions and one fellow participant has expressed despair that such discussions can bear fruit:

I would love a dialogue and don't mind discussions but it is the arguments that drag me down.
Quran: wa kaanal-ensaano akthara sha-en jadalaa

Besides talking to some people in this forum (Moslems and anti-islamists)is a waste of time like planting fruit trees in barren land or piles of manure and you cannot expect any fruit, only stench and decay, but might be good for worms and insects.

- Ali the Moslem, Newspaper Index Forums

He might be right but he and I do share a respect for Rumi so that bridge is worth continuing to explore. I was attracted to this quatrain because Rumi seems to invite himself into the conversation and asks only that I be forthright and show him out if I don't like him. I can also see the theme of having and being in the dervish empty-handedness. He is not here to take anything nor to give anything, for these are metaphors of having.

I've yet to finish reading Fromm and a long way from assimilating what he is saying - he would see the grasping, holding, wanting-to-have metaphor there! - but it does have a somewhat outdated feel. In my own adventures inside this territory, I have seen having associated with patriarchy and male dominance, being associated with woman. As a woman, I am tired of the burden of being and I lust for a little having. However, I do support Fromm's urge that men (and the women that support them) lean more toward the being side of consciousness and away from the having.

An interesting insight I've derived from this reading is that the having mode dominates even when possessions are rejected. The true being mode is indifferent to, not antipathetic to possessions. According to this, Ghandi with his famous austerity and material poverty was in fact possessed by the notion of possession. What intrigues me more, however, is the Eckhart commentary on spiritual in contrast to material possession based on this passage from the New Testament:

Matthew 5:3 (King James Version)
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Fromm quotes Eckhart as specifying: "He is a poor man who wants nothing, knows nothing, and has nothing."

The kind of spiritual things that the "poor in spirit" don't have includes desires, actions, imagination, achievements, knowledge, etc, but most radically it includes wisdom, enlightenment, and above all God. As Eckhart puts it: Therefore I pray God that he may quit me of god.

I would, however, apply the same principle to spiritual as to material possessions. Only he who is truly disinterested in God has escaped being possessed by a need to possess God. The atheist who rejects God is as possessed as the theist. The agnostic might be more on the right track, unless he is possessed by a desire for Socratic wisdom.

Ah, it is truly truly so very difficult to go about empty-handed and disinclined to gathering!


At Monday, 27 February, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Been reading a little Echart myself. So much to read: so little time.

At Tuesday, 28 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Thanks for finding the time to drop in, Bob. :)


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