The Beloved’s Call and One Man’s Journey with Rumi

 This article was published in a few little spiritual journals in various forms over the years in the hope that it might help or encourage a few others on their journey…

 

“Come, Come, Whoever you are…”

 

                       Rumi weeping_2 rumi weeping

  “Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving

 Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, it doesn’t matter.

 Come , come yet again, come!”

In our time of global  crisis or transition, there is nothing more vital to humanity than the awakening of every cell of it’s body to the deep knowing, that despite the  diverse forms of  individual and cultural  expression, we are essentially one Body, one Heart, one Spirit.
There  is perhaps no one person in history who’s words are recorded, who expressed this essential unity more eloquently and passionately than the great 13C Persian Sufi Poet and Mystic Jelaludin Rumi.  In fact he said that his words would return at a future time of need, and ‘grow green over the earth’.  Rumi’s profound awakening and poetic  genius enabled him to address the deepest pain and need in every apparently separate self, of whatever tradition or  culture.

 “ I have thrown duality away like an old dishrag

I see and know all times and all worlds as one, one, always one

So what do I have to do to get you to admit who is speaking to you?

Admit it and change everything.

This is your own voice echoing off the walls of God”

    So pleads Rumi, having given his life with searing, passionate intensity to the “Life of life” and reached through the veils to Divine Gnosis. Out of outrageous freedom, in urgent compassion, he calls all, who like thirsty fish swimming in an ocean of water, are suffering the pain, the pangs, of separation.

“Oh lovers, lovers, it is time

To set out from the world…

Beneath this water-wheel of stars

Your sleep has been heavy.

Observe that heaviness and beware

For life is fragile and quick.

Heart, aim yourself at Love!

Friend, discover the Friend!

Watchman, Wake up! You weren’t put here to sleep!”

Jelaludin Rumi was an Islamic teacher, perhaps the most brilliant of his time, in 13C Konya, capital of the Seljuk Empire in Persia. He was already highly acclaimed with thousands of disciples, when at the age of 37 he met an extraordinary Dervish who’s presence initiated him into the great undoing, the Fire of total transformation. When Rumi was sufficiently ‘cooked’, Shams of Tabriz disappeared, leaving Rumi whirling in bewildered ecstatic communion with the Mystery, a beacon of love and freedom in a time of catastrophic conflict in the middle east. He began pouring out a torrent of passion and wisdom, love poetry, teaching tales, music, dance and compassionate action. People of all traditions were drawn to him and there gathered about him the beginnings of new dervish order, the Mevlevi, most commonly known these days for their Whirling Ceremonies. But he spoke, and speaks to all, beyond tradition and culture, to the heart of the human being, calling all to the essential religion – to Love.

“The love religion has no code, no doctrine, only God”

“I am a flute, which with a single mode,

Is tuned to two hundred religions”

      His beloved Friend, Shams of Tabriz, said: ”I have nothing to do with mundane concerns, I have come to be with and put my fingers on the nerves of those who guide others to God”. The result of this meeting was the most sublime mystical voice, speaking across the centuries with utter authority, total passion, with delicacy, humor, and encouragement to all who are stirred to awaken from the dream (or nightmare) of separation from their source and true nature.

“I am on fire with the love of God

Does anyone need a light?

You can set your rubbish ablaze

From the fire within me”

      Over 45,000 verses, and six volumes of his opus, The Mathnawi spilled from his lips and was transcribed by his friends, and yet he cared nothing for poetry himself, except that someone might catch fire from it!   He Knew that the essence that spoke through him could literally transmit an awakening power, and in a way unique to the state of each listener:

“The Universal soul touches an individual soul

And gives it a pearl to hide in the chest

A new Christ lives in you from that touch

Every word I say is trying to coax a response from that”

 Rumi’s poetry can touch, melt, nourish, bewilder, open, teach at so many different levels, and with astonishing power.

Personally, I have found in reading or reciting the same verses over many years that I have never reached an end to their depths of meaning, they keep breaking one open anew – They are an expression of Love, of which there is no end:

“There is no companion but love

No starting or finishing, yet a road

The Friend calls from there-

‘Why do you hesitate, when lives are in danger’”

       Rumi is also a sublime seducer, the attractive beauty of his words, and the mystery they carry, draw us toward their source…then we may begin to discover that we are being lured into a trap, that we are being destroyed, and falling unavoidably into our fundamental pain. Then he calls us deeper, not to avoid that pain, but to allow it to be a doorway the very means of awakening and union

“The cure for pain is in the pain!“

Having been a supremely accomplished man of knowledge and highly learned scholar, Rumi speaks from profound experience, when he says…

“The way of love is not a subtle argument,

The door there is devastation.

Birds make great sky circles of their freedom

How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling

They are given wings”

Don’t hold back in fear and mistrust, he says.

“Gamble everything for love if you’re a true human being…

Half-heartedness does not reach into the majesty.

You set out to find God,

But you keep stopping for long periods,

At mean spirited roadhouses!”

Rumi  had witnessed every state and condition of human life in his youth as he traveled with his father through the middle east, in those devastating times of the Mongol invasions. His hunger for direct experience of Truth, beyond all consolations and beliefs was immense, unrelenting. Finally, with the powerful influence of Shams having ’cooked’ him and turned him inside out he could say:

“I have been living on the lip of insanity,

Knocking on a door, wanting to know reasons

Trying to get in. The door opens.

I have been knocking from the inside!”

 When his transformation and surrender into his real identity with all that is  was complete, he could laugh in astonished gratitude:

“ Sultan, saint, pickpocket,

Love has everyone by the ear,

Dragging us to God by secret ways.

I never knew that God too, desires us!”

Rumi’s words are full of the paradoxes of enlightened experience.

“When you give up everything, everything is yours!”

“Why go anywhere, since you are always here”

His is a radically inclusive spiritual psychology drawing us to allow every aspect of our being to be embraced into the alchemical fire of transformation. And this is only possible when one begins to intuit in the midst of conditions, THAT in one’s nature which is utterly unconditioned…

‘We are the mirror as well as the face in it,

We are tasting the taste, this minute, of eternity.

We are pain, and what cures pain, both.

We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.”

Rumi uses all sorts of metaphors to point to the immanent, ever present truth, recognized in all the essential teachings of the perennial wisdom.

“You already have the precious mixture that will make you well – use it!”

Rumi does not encourage an ascetic denial of life, flying to the transcendent- but seeks to awaken direct knowledge of the infinite Presence, in which life is already being lived. This enables a gradual release and transformation of the fearful ‘separate self survival’ ego strategies  (which dominate most human beings) and a growing trust of the Mystery, the Universal Loving Intelligence, The Beloved:

“Give your life to the one who already owns your breath

and your moments”

Rumi cajoles, jokes, pleads, reasons, entrances and seduces us with the most extraordinary range of metaphors, poems, stories, discourses, an immense ocean of seamless wisdom always encouraging us not to settle for limited egoic desires and satisfactions, but to honour our true desire- “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of what you really Love” – till we are ready to surrender into the beneficent Mystery, into the ultimately loving True Nature of existence, into becoming That- Love Itself

“Very little grows on jagged rock,

Be ground, be crumbled,

So wild flowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years

Try something different

Surrender”

And he reassures us that when we allow ourselves to ‘die’, we will finally realize who he is and who we all are…

 “I am the clear consciousness core of your being

                                 The same in ecstasy or self hating fatigue…

                                      I don’t look for me in human shape

                                             I am inside your looking.

                                No room for form with love this strong!”

 

Rumi’s words, spoken spontaneously, were recorded for posterity and still carry after 800 years an amazing power to touch each heart, to nourish, awaken, and fan the flame of our true being, our true passion for the real.

“If you have lost heart in the path of love,

Flee to me without delay.

For I am a fortress invincible”

 Rumi wings2

———-

Personally I met Rumi’s work when I was 19 years old and visiting a friend at a retreat centre in Britain run by Beshara (a modern esoteric school teaching the Unity of Existence ). I was ‘setting out bravely on the spiritual path’ and although it took years for the taste and savour of Rumi’s call to deepen in me, I felt the extraordinary welcome, encouragement, freedom, and absolute love in these first words I encountered:

”Come, come, whoever you are,…”

(Actually these oft quoted words are not from Rumi, but are from a closely associated source, so i since discovered)

         At the time, in the early seventies, the translations of Rumi were rather stodgy Victorian versifying, beautiful, but distant and archaic. Also I never wanted to be a follower of anyone, and I pursued various exploits, tasting and getting to be acquainted with all the psycho-spiritual teachings then becoming available in their bewildering diversity. But somehow I intuited that Rumi’s voice was speaking from a unified and resonant peak of realization that could be trusted, if not reached.

Eventually the new translations by Coleman Barks, Andrew Harvey, Kabir Helminski, Daniel Liebert and others, began to reach me. At the time I was, after despairing of intense psychotherapy to ‘cure‘ my pain, finding myself drawn to begin some kind of artistic training based in the esoteric understanding and insights of Rudolf Steiner.

As I pursued my studies in the arts of Speech and Drama in the context of an understanding of the cosmic powers immanent in ‘the Word’, I began sharing these new Rumi translations with colleagues and friends,

Then I met a fellow traveler, colleague, and practitioner of the art and crafts of the spoken word who was a lover of Rumi too, and soon we began daring, to perform, Rumi’s poems and stories. Despite severe bouts of  shame, unworthiness (and at times fear of divine wrath descending on us. for daring to represent such sublimity!) we were driven by our attraction to Rumi’s flame to continue to perform his works, together and separately.

Life brought many other events and tasks, I was acting, performing powerful roles in Shakespeare, in Steiners mystery dramas, telling vibrant African Tales, teaching drama, storytelling and speech. I had also been experimenting and developing what I called ‘Presence Work”, where individuals support each other in a group by giving open attention to each other, or to one person , and surrender to the ‘cooking’ that ensues. As time went on, and at each revisiting of Rumi, I kept discovering deeper resonances as the beauty and truth of Rumi’s words hit deeper strata in my soul.

Then, coming to an exhausted end of years of touring, and though trying to continue to teach, I began to feel as though I was ‘dying’, that I could no longer avoid the awful pain of separation at the root of my existence, that life was unendurable without facing and resolving that pain.

I felt like I was falling, falling inexorably out of any capacity to get by on the ‘self’ I had been all my life and no ‘get fixed’ attempts would work, no ‘good advice’ would help, and an inconsolable grief took hold of me.

Be truthful now

See yourself as you truly are

You have a hidden wound

And this is no time for posing

It was as if my attraction to Rumi had been preparing me for years to be able to understand and bear what was now actually happening to me.

“Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,

How it sings of separation:

‘Ever since they cut me from the reed bed,

My wail has caused men and women to weep,

      I want a breast torn and tattered with longing…’”

      This ancient, seemingly inconsolable pain of separation from Being was now with me all the time, day and night, sometimes as an excruciating gnawing sensation, almost but not quite physical. No amount of esoteric knowledge, meditative technique, philosophical or psychological consolation, nor ordinary or extraordinary distractions of any kind, made any fundamental difference to its insistent, crushing pressure.

I wanted to die, to cease existing altogether.

But there was no way out

For, with grim humour I realized that, in my early twenties, I had in a kind of precognitive wisdom, studied so much about death and ‘afterlife’. Now I could not allow myself that ‘way out’- I knew it would not change anything, only create deeper suffering.

I remember walking on a hillside in Holland, tears streaming down my face, sobbing hopelessly in this bewildering pain: “Even if You, Christ were holding my hand now, it would make no difference, I would still be separate!” And I realized that it was not literal death that was calling but death of the fundamental sense of being separate from Being, from Truth, from Love at the core of the egoself structure.

Rumi gave me some faith that this was not just pathological, and though terrified at times of where I was headed, and I avoided anti-depressants and advice from well meaning friends and acquaintances. To a degree I had to withdraw as any company where I had to hide the pain and ‘pretend’ became so unbearable, that after a few minutes I would have to stagger off on my own.( Very few people can bear allowing someone to be in this pain – And NO-ONE wants to feel it if they can possibly avoid it! As a fellow journeyer once said to me “only when the pain of the effort to avoid the pain becomes greater than facing the pain itself, will people allow it “. Either this, or the pure exhaustion of holding on to defenses.)

During this period I was graced with ‘help’ in a few different forms. First a few deep friends. Then I was led to the work of A.H. Almaas and the Ridhwan School (a profound contemporary expression of the same essential wisdom that Rumi was communicating): I also met a maverick ’spiritual counselor’ in Holland who took one extraordinary compassionate look at me and basically said ‘You are dying, God will crush you, yes it feels terrible, but it is the beginning of new life, suffer it, nothing you can do will help, It is doing you, there is nothing else for you’ – I felt both profoundly recognized and helpless, hopeless, devastated. But here was a living man who seemed to know and trust this awful process, and embodied the grace, presence, power and humility of someone who had ‘come through’!  ‘Help’ also came in the classic form of a beautiful young woman I fell hopelessly in love with, but who only pushed me away again and again, increasing my access to the pain of the essential ‘separateness’ and bringing about in me a period of inconsolable weeping, as if emptying out of an ancient well or lake of grief. When I asked this ‘counselor’ about her he said, “Yes, you come from the same source, She has come to kill you, and in time she will go through this herself.”

Well there were several years of intense suffering, often coming as a huge wave until I felt I could bear no more and would drown, then a miraculous lull or respite, and then another wave. Each wave bringing different dregs from my unconscious washing through me. The more I resisted the longer the pain would persist, Slowly and painfully I learned that the best way through was simply to be with it and feel it as much as my fear would allow. Gradually I began to notice that at some deep level there was a ‘Presence’ as I called ‘it’ always with me, and that the fundamental separateness was dissolving or dissolved, though most of the patterns of my body-mind continued (and continue!).

Mysteriously, though I often feared for my literal survival, life seemed to provide me with just enough at each point. I would be led to another insight or perspective, then stripped of it, as though anything I wanted to rely on would be taken away, until eventually I started to ‘get’ the logic of how I was (and still am) being forced, dragged, into deeper and deeper trust in the mystery itself, rather than any method, person, or form.

I am reminded of the old Buddhist story about Mara, the God of evil and lies, who is walking haughtily about the earth (his domain) with his entourage and they see a monk having a satori (insight into truth). One of Mara’s entourage sees this and says to Mara, ‘ Lord, are you not disturbed by this, he has grasped a truth?” Mara laughs and replies ”Yes, but don’t worry, he will soon turn it into a belief!”

Yet more and more at some mysterious level, there is an indefinable sense of fundamental peace and ‘OK’ness in Being, a very subtle sense of unshakable ‘Isness’ even if circumstances seem disastrous, a strange sense of living at the core in some unlocatable ‘place’ or ‘nowhere’ not of this world, yet not separate either.

Perhaps this is a beginning of what Rumi is referring to when he says

“The only real rest comes when you are alone with God.

Live in that no-where that you came from,

even though you have an address here.”

Or

“Being is not what it seems.

Nor is non-being.

The world’s existence is not in the world”

         And in this process it seems that the grace or ‘transmission’ that usually comes during Rumi performances grows deeper and is felt more palpably, by those present, particularly in the  extraordinary silence that descends after all the words. To be simultaneously both a vehicle for Rumi’s message and a beneficiary is a glorious, humbling grace and unearned privilege. Sometimes rehearsing a poem, I am struck anew, and weep in awe and gratitude for the unbelievably miraculous grace of the whole mysterious affair – pain and all.

The cooking continues!

“Oh Lovers, Lovers, it is time…”

Yours in Love

Duncan Mackintosh   (Written 1999)

* Gratitude to the fine work of the translators of Rumi from whose works the above quotes are drawn: Kabir Helminski, Coleman Barks, Daniel Liebert, Andrew Harvey, Muriel Maufroy, and Timothy Freke

—-

* Gratitude to numerous helpers on the way, especially Christ, Rumi, Ramana Maharshi and his ‘offspring’,  to Rudolf Steiner, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Hafiz, A.H.Almaas, Rens Hendricks, Judith Blackstone, Saniel Bonder and friends, Rene Hanson, to Aisha, Peter Fenner, Yogananda, and to friends and beloveds, past and present, to all lovers, and the mystery of The Beloved.

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