Monday, June 28, 2010

The Quest for Shams

The numinous pre-dawn encounter described in my last article had given me a name, Shams, as well as a starting point for a journey into the imaginal world of the Persian Sufis. It will surprise no one who knows Rumi that my researches brought me very quickly to the Shams of his poetic vision.

Rumi's Shams, Shamsuddin i-Tabriz was the "immortal beloved" of his greatest mystical flights and ecstatic poetry. Described as both a Master (Mawlana) and an "enigmatic" figure, Shams appeared in Rumi's home town of Konya in 1244 and transformed Rumi (by his own account) from a sober, pious, legalistic scholar into a spiritual poet. "My head always used to hold the Koran, but now it holds Love's flagon."

Rumi's vast Diwan (collected poems) is named for Shams; its title is the Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi, and a third of the poems in it are explicitly dedicated to Shams.

The Shams of the poems is the Guide, the Radiant Double, the Heavenly Twin, the Son of the Son, the object and subject of the Quest.

He is and is not Rumi the poet.

What better guide for a foray into the Imaginal Realm of the Persian mystics?

Go to Mount Qaf, my Shams instructed me.

"His w1ne's crashing waves fill the space from Mount Qaf to Mount Qaf." Rumi sang of his Shams.

A sugar-lipped sweetheart brought news. "A caravan has come from Egypt! A hundred camels, all sugar and candy - oh Lord, what a fine gift! ---

"A candle has come at midnight! A spirit has entered a corpse!"

I said, "Speak plainly." ---

She said, "You know who has come." --

My heart flew up in joy and placed a ladder at the intellect's edge. ---

It rushed to the roof in its love, seeking a tangible sign of that good news.

Suddenly from the housetop it saw a world beyond our world - an all-encompassing ocean in a jug, a heaven in the form of dust. ---

Upon the roof sat a king wearing the clothes of a watchman. ---

An infinite garden and paradise within that gardener's breast. His image traveled from breast to breast explaining the Sultan of the heart.

O image of that king, flee not from my eyes! Renew my heart for a moment!

Shams-i Tabrizi has seen No-place and built from it a place.

- Rumi, Diwan 2730, translated by William C. Chittick in The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983, p.140]

My heart thrills to these verses. Every line is a teaching. The last line speaks of the nature of reality creation from the fluid materials of imaginal space.

But I don't know that my Shams is the Shams that the poet knew. The name means "sun". To learn more, I know I must be illuminated by an inner sun. The moment for that will come soon, in less than two days, in the middle of my first night on an island near the border of another country, when the world is turned inside out, and I find myself floating on a pink sky, with a blue lake above.

Rumi's Shams, in c.1500 Persian copy of the Diwan-i-Shams-i-TabriziRRR


Justin Patrick Moore said...

I like how you distinguish between THE shams and YOUR shams. You do this with other figures as well, as in THE Tolkien, and YOUR Tolkien, THE Yeats, and Your Yeats, etc. This suggests to me, that we each have our own multiverse within the multiverse -making it a very large place indeed.

Again, I notice also a mirroring effect on this blog with various themes in my own life. Perhaps because of the community web you are weaving around all of these fascinating subjects, those who are attuned to it can feel the vibrations on the silken threads of thought. I've not delved much into the mythology of Islam or Sufi mysticism -except for a bit of the poetry & a passing interest in the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But last week I just finished taking some first tenative steps into these Imaginal realms, through the gate of an excellent YA book "Shadow Spinner" that took me into Shahrazad's 1001 nights -and many stories within stories. Like the cliff hanging chapters in the book, your blog always leaves me excited for the next installment -which is in itself a great lesson in storytelling.

Unknown said...

I had a Rumi dream years ago. I had never heard of him. ( embarrasingly so) I was told by a Rumi scholar that thru the ages Rumi has come to people in their dreams. Why? There is a resonance I was told. I dismissed this, yet within weeks I was seized to write erotic love poetry of the type that I feared would send my children into therapy if they knew. I hid the poems in my computer. Years later there is not a day that goes by that I do not read Rumi. I now even invoke him to bring Love to our world in his very unique way. I adore Rumi and cannot imagine my life without his poems.

David Pierce said...

Justin and Susan, I enjoyed and found agreement with both your replies.

Robert, it is interesting to me that "shams" means "sun," for I have lately been thinking of sun-inspired revelations because of my deep regard for Parmenides' revelation on the nature of reality, which was given him by the Sun Goddess; and because of my interest in Akhenaten's use of Aten, the sun, as the symbol for ultimate being.

Rumi's poems have been of great importance in my life; now your post has me wondering about his history.

Mikka said...

Dear beloved friend, how beautiful the Sun in coming "in and out"... Like the breathe...
Few days ago I wrote a post -"Solaroid" -, a second story about entering the Sun for accomplishing the dreams, the visions...
I had a vision there, while I was just in the middle of the Sun. The eyes of the Sun, being the eyes of The-One-With-No-Face. The eyes of the Beloved... Pouring immense and infinite love... Right into my eyes, right into my heart. An there, in my heart, I have seen the world. With all that is growing: crops, grass, forests, children and dreams... the dance of the world and even other worlds...
Someone commented and said that the story made a Sun to appear in her heart...

And another "thing": I love Rumi. I adore his poems and the love between the Lover and the Beloved.
Sometimes I listen to the music and his poems and I dance. I like to dance in this trance state.
And you know? In August I will go to a workshop. It will be a whole week for dancing. It will be Arabian dance. One of the guests, a very good dancer, is called Shams...

Worldbridger said...

Fling open the up house doors, for joy life has risen!

Robert Moss said...

Justin - The skeptic in me is far too active to allow me to tag "mt" Shams (or "my" Yeats) as THE one. As we pursue our roads, intelligences come to join us that carry the stamp of a certain mind or tradition. This encounter may extend to what Yeats called the "mingling of minds." WE feel ourselves in community - across times and dimensions - with other and greater minds that traveled similar roads. Thus Proclus (a favorite of Henry Corbin) felt he was attending night colloquiums with Plutarch.

Robert Moss said...

bună ziua, Mikka - I love your journey to the Sun. In workshops, I sometimes lead a journey to the Sun and then to the Sun-behind-the-Sun. Have fun in your dance with Shams!

Robert Moss said...

Susan - Isn't it grand how dreams guide us to what we need to know? In one of my very first dream classes, a woman was baffled by the name "Orpheus", which she claimed was previously unknown to her. She explained that in her dream, she had seen a man who had the power to charm wild animals with his music.

Robert Moss said...

David - I like the dominance of the feminine in Parmenides. It is the Heliades, the daughters of Helios the sun god, who speed his chariot through the Gate of Night and Day into the presence of the Great Goddess.