Monday, February 20, 2006

a swaying god

Each moment, moon, you beckon me to come.

You yourself know, but you ask how I am.

You're a cypress and words to you are wind;

I speak, and enraptured, you sway and bend.

#1988: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: moon

In recent reflections and in Bob's comments, the psychology of religion has been explored. The Wikipedia article lists, under "Psychoanalytical studies", the contributions of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Erich Fromm. I think that James Hillman should be added to the list since he has drawn out Jung's work in much the same way that Fromm drew out Freud's. Here is a summary along with their birth dates:

  • Freud, 1856: religion as infantile, neurotic illusion
  • Jung, 1875: religious experience validated and elaborated
  • Fromm, 1900: religion fulfills a legitimate need but can be detrimental
  • Hillman, 1926: rejection of monotheistic demands in favour of polytheistic outlook

The views of each of these men clearly reflect their times. Freud rode the wave of scientific expansion at the expense of religion, a period where reason prevailed over revelation. Jung tried to correct that imbalance by upholding religious experience as a potentially natural and healthy process. Fromm extended Freud by seeing value and truth in religion that could be mined, so to speak, and translated for use in a modern secular society. Hillman rejects the inherent monotheism and developmental prescriptions inside Jung's framework and insists on the individual being able to determine and discover his or her own destiny or calling. He rails strongly against the soul deniers:

My war - and I have yet to win a decisive battle - is with the modes of thought and conditioned feelings that prevail in psychology and therefore also in the way we think and feel about our being. Of these conditions none are more tyrannical than the convictions that clamp the mind and heart into positivistic science (geneticism and computerism), economics (bottom-line capitalism), and single-minded faith (fundamentalism).

(The Force of Character, 1999, p. xxiv.)

Hillman is a very literary writer. He makes no pretense at being scientific, pragmatic, or mystically wise. His words are chosen carefully and he conveys an immaculately post-modern style, ever aware of the myth-making evident in his own telling of where myth fits in.

Getting back now to the moon and Rumi, I see this "she", this moon goddess, as a metaphor for soul and I see him saying here that soul wants the words he says and writes, even though soul knows beforehand what will be written. After all, soul writing is soul expression. It is simply a bringing out and revealing of what is there. However, soul does need the words in order to live, in order to move about and sway. It needs words or it will remain static and eventually ossify.

This lovely little quatrain is written in Rumi's usual humble tone and yet it says something quite astonishing. It says that God dances to man's tune, that God is as enraptured by His creation as His creation is enraptured by Her. Of course, Rumi is careful to assign these soul attributes of deity to a feminine presence. The masculine Allah might be compassionate (sometimes, and mostly toward Muslims) and wrathful (often, and mostly toward non-Muslims) but he is never enraptured by, moved to ecstasy by, inclined to dance to the music of, let alone fall in love with, His own creation. Pity. He could learn a thing or two if He were to deign to notice his lovely spouse.

Update: Image of Taj Mahal removed, as permission to use it was sought and refused.


At Monday, 20 February, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Beautiful picture of the Taj Mahal!

At Monday, 20 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

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