precious things

Omar taught him the journey of the soul,
    Spiritual traveling to the furthest goal,
And of the time which stands beyond all time,
    That lofty station, sacred and sublime,
And of the realm in which the spirit flew -
    Before this life both flight and grace it knew,
Seeing beyond horizons coast to coast,
    The utmost faith and zeal it then could boast.

'Commander of the Faithful, please expound
    For me how spirit came down to the ground:
How did that bird become caged in a cell?'
    He said, 'God chanted to the soul a spell;
The non-existents have no ear nor eye,
    But when God chants a spell they stir and fly,
His spells give non-existents such a jolt
    That to existence they all somersault!
And when existents hear God's formula
    To non-existence their route's similar.'
The rose smiled once He'd chanted to its stem,
    His spell has made a stone turn to a gem,
Bodies transformed to souls by just one line,
    His words have also caused the sun to shine,
But dark words sometimes whispered to its ear
    Have made eclipses of the sun appear;
He also made the clouds perform the task
    Of weeping tears just like a water-flask -
What spells He must have whispered to the ground
    To make it think, but not make any sound!
Whoever is perplexed by doubt and fear -
    The Lord will chant a riddle in his ear
To hold him captive with this thought a bit,
    'Shall I obey or do the opposite?'
God's preference is implicit for one side;
    This factor helps the doubter to decide.
You don't want to be plagued by doubts and fears?
     Then put less cotton wool inside your ears
To hear those riddles that the Lord will tell,
    The secret hints he gives, the clear as well -
Your spirit's ear will hear His revelation.
    What's that? It's speech that's far beyond sensation!

Spiritual eyes and ears transcend mere sense,
    While rational ones can only claim pretense. 
The word 'compulsion' spurs my heart ahead
    While those who lack love feel ensnared instead,
It's not compulsion but divine communion,
    Not clouds, but the full moon in total union;
If it's compulsion it's a special kind,
    Not that commanding self's type which is blind:
Compulsion like this few identify,
    God's given these men's hearts an inner eye -
Hidden things and the future they can see,
    Mentioning the past near them is blasphemy!
For them compulsion's different as well:
    Drops turn to pearls inside an oyster shell,
However big each drop looks to your eyes
    It forms a pearl exactly the same size;
This group are like the gland of a musk deer:
    Inside there's musk though this may not be clear:
'There's only blood around this gland,' men claim,
    'How can it turn to musk scent all the same?'
They say, 'This copper's hideous: I don't see,
    How it can turn to gold through alchemy.'
You found compulsion and free will in form,
    For them, to God's own light it can transform:
Bread on the table is inanimate
    But forms a living form inside your gut,
Unchanging on the table where you dine,
    The soul transmutes it with some heavenly wine -
The soul has strength to carry out this role;
    What then the power of God, who rules the soul!
Man would be merely flesh but for his heart,
    Both seas and mountains he can split apart:
The heart splits rock, lifts mountains through the sky,
    God's verse He split the moon proves I don't lie -
Just lift the cover of this mystery,
    Your soul will seek God's Throne then eagerly.

- from the masnavi, book one by rumi

(robert wilson, artist, at the watermill center in new york via theselby.com)

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