The Pantheism of Sufism

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Published in Wordcatalyst, then republished in Tipton Poetry Journal:

PR4–342

I Was a Prince

I was a prince who found you in a pond
Secure beneath a lily pad to hide
Your creamy body from the sun and me but
You squirmed out of my grasp and dived so deep
I dared not follow so I placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and I
Disguised myself and sat on top a frog
As any fool could see–when you came up
I quickly kissed your lips and magic things
Occurred like in the fairy tales to wit
I did become a frog and it turned out
You really fancied frogs’ legs but I squirmed
Out of your grasp and dived down deeper than
You dared to follow so you placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and when
I came back up again to sit on it
You kissed me back into a prince once more
And it turned out you fancied princes too
So you apologizing for the frogs’
Legs dinner episode said “Still it was
A lot of fun” And so we lived and dived
Quite happy ever after til one day
You were especially hungry and you knew
That when I was a frog you were supposed
To kiss me but you ate me and you said
“It was a boring game after a while”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Last week I said this post would carry out my original intention (how romantic love fits in with mysticism) from an idea I’d had from a meeting in Los Angeles to celebrate the 124th birthday of the Parsi mystic, Meher Baba, who has been so pivotal in my odyssey of this lifetime. As I mentioned last week, the story behind my Meher Baba connection can be found above by pressing the “About” button.

I got the idea of linking romantic love to mysticism from one of the songs sung by the featured performer, cierta Adrienne Shamszad, who was (along with Brian Darnell) featured in my last post (of March 1–Here’s the url: https://rumi-nations.com/2016/03/01/happiness-has-a-small-door/). She included a song of romantic love early on in her concert, which was dedicated to the mystic Meher Baba, yet she explained that though the song from her past was about her love for a certain boy, it was a love for “the Baba in the boy.” This is a thing which corollarily follows from the pantheism of Sufism. And of course Meher Baba was the bull goose Sufi (to paraphrase Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and this was exemplified in a favorite bit of Baba writing, titled, “God Alone Is.”

I suspect it may seem suspect (for being a non-mystical theme), my choice of the poem above. I feel justified by Ms Shamszad, who during her presentation as an aside mentioned the almost overriding need for humor. (She had forgotten some of her lines but I’d said she’d covered up for it by her funny faces)

Yes, it is a poem attempting to be funny. Apparently successfully so because it’s been published twice. First by the now defunct poetry journal Wordcatalyst, and then republished by Tipton Poetry Journal. In a further Sufi twist (or at least my brand of Sufism), it connotes reincarnation. Else how could the Prince narrator say the last line which postdates his demise?

Which reminds me of the classic film Sunset Boulevard (98% on rottentomatoes.com–Check it out!) which was narrated up to and beyond the narrator’s own death. Now if that doesn’t connote a life beyond the grave I do not know what does. And if you take that as a given it’s a mere short extrapolation to the concept of reincarnation.*

But back to Adrienne Shamszad and her talk of “the Baba in the boy.” (Yes it’s time to get back to a spiritual connection here) I felt I needed an explanation for my choice of the above poem, since generally, I favor those which seem to illustrate a Sufi principle. And as per Hazrat Inayat Khan, romantic love has its distinct place in the mystical life. (As evidenced by his book, Rasa Shastra) And there is even a wonderful Sufi legend of two lovers, Leila and Majnun.**

I wish I had a way to let you listen to Adrienne’s song. It was more than usually impressive. But alas, I do not. But you know, I checked youtube (what a wonderful thing!) and found this from her which is even more better. More subtly expressive of the dichotomy of the physical and the spiritual. If you listen to this song you can hear both sides (now) as Joanie Mitchell used to sing. Words like “when I’m tired of myself” and fall on your knees like in the Christmas carol. And yet it has powerful ambiguities suggesting physical love ( a la Robert Frost***)

Here’s the url:

I guess the focus of this talk of romantic love, then is tending toward either tragically separated, (which epitomizes the whole Sufi concept of the tragedy of separation from God) unrequited, or soon unrequited, or just plain outright unrequited or at least the possibility of a gradual change. Especially since who can control the will of another? As an example, Inayat Khan talked of how the wise react when their beloved turns on them and gives them “poison” to drink. Does the lover react with disgust, with recriminations, with rancor? No, but rather with kindness and a silent turning away, a resignation as if it had come from the hand of God. Inayat Khan said, “This is how the wise love.”

A wonderful poem by E. E. Cummings, epitomized this
(written to his lifelong mate, Marion Morehouse):

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another’s,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be,i say if this should be—
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost land

And this reaction of the wise to rejection also reminds me of this old favorite Billie Holiday song:

I’ll Be Seeing You

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through

In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way

I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

And here’s an early poem of mine (written at age 17) which I wrote when a girlfriend broke up with me (because I wasn’t Jewish!):

I can’t remember how it was
How long ago it seems
When I was sure you loved me
And your smile was in my dreams

I can’t remember how I felt
Ago a little while
When my tenderness for you
Was reflected in your smile

Now all I can remember
Is your look of pure surprise
When I would have touched your lips
And looked into your eyes ****

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of Sufism in the West, who originally structured the Sufi order I was initiated into circa 1972, never explicitly addressed the issue of reincarnation. (Which I believe would have unnecessarily rocked Islamic boats. Sufism has Islamic roots, and Inayat Khan wasn’t big on boat-rocking, preferring to emphasize agreement. But it’s a very short logical extrapolation from so much of what he said. He for instance was always talking about young souls as if they were children playing with toys, whose later destiny was to be wise. A not bloody likely development in a single lifetime, especially in the many obvious cases which all too often we find in our faces.

**See this url for an interesting explanation of this legend
http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/sunrise/49-99-0/mi-jcok.htm

***I refer to Frost saying that poetry was at its best when there was “a tantalizing ambiguitiy.”

****Interestingly though, many many years later I got in touch with another old friend, the one who in high school actually had set me up with Eileen. And she said to me “Oh I have a message for you from Eileen. She said to say she was sorry.”

One response »

  1. 昔と比較すれば、ワキ脱毛もやってもらいやすくなりました。何故かと言うと、ワキ脱毛を脱毛の入門編的な位置づけにしており、何が何でも安価で体験してもらおうと願っているからです。

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