Thursday, January 4, 2018

Faces of the Beloved

photo from when Joseph & Leg’cy first partnered up,
circa 2007. Taken & framed by beloved Belqis.
The Religion of Love pretty much says it all, and at the same time leaves one free-falling, ecstatic, as if intoxicated, calling for imagery of taverns, love-making, and (especially for me) horses.* The Persian mystic poets leave me breathless that way. From a random page of Hafiz:
“…From the demonic rival, I take refuge in my own God;/ For the sake of God, that gleaming star might grant some help.//  If your black eye-lash has our blood in its sights,…/ When you set your cheek alight, you burn up the heart of a world…” **

Avery’s footnote to “cheek” states: 
“The “cheek”, izar (also rukh ): Shabistari defines the cheek as the stage on which the Divine Beauty is revealed. The cheek is the jamal, the beauty of God, the vestibule to God’s jallal, His Glory and Power. The cheek is the Divine Essence manifested in its names and qualities.” **
         This wonder-full especially happens when life-experience throbs deep in the heart and calls up in its inimitable, undeniable way: “Truth!” Within each individual, a feeling that eludes the meaning-making of the schooled-mind waits to be owned and known through the heart. It may have to wait a long time, to the end of time? Searching out, forging a good connection with passion deserves high priority. 
         Natural horsemanship requires collection. While driven by passion, my horsemanship demanded many years of riding and groundwork before I could claim to be true the subtle vibrations that my body had long known but could not get through to my conscious knowing because the schooled mind refused to yield. I say “schooled-mind” because Reason must not be devalued. The mind, when cleaned, plays a crucial role in discerning the path. It’s when a person’s thinking (or any other function) presumes to know more than God that it has to be dethroned by surrender. David George Haskell gives a marvelous example of this: “Lichens master the cold months through the paradox of surrender” (The Forest Unseen, p. 4; for elaboration, see These Frosty Woods). ***
         Usually, perhaps optimally, in order to feel heart-resonance fully, the surround space stands still, silent, as if bowed, waiting to be witnessed. Yet in a rushed, distracted world, this deep-bass-voiced “Amen” from a Hallelujah chorus risks never being heard. That’s why I look long into the winter woods, the patient leaves, gold-toned, drawing me further and farther in. 



It’s remembering dreams, both kinds. For me (as in Good Stories), it’s also returning to traditional tales, allowing old ones to come true again, at any moment, as they tell the meaning of otherwise inarticulate experience.
"All the tales of great lovers and the fables of the heroic champions of yore thus become part of the soul’s psychohistory. They pertain to the inner journey of the poet…These are not legends, but living facts of the heart that appear constantly in their verse; they are, as Emily Dickinson says, ‘Bulletins all Day from Immortality’. . . in the Religion of Love such circumstances fill the mystic’s presential awareness. These legends are tangible issues of the present moment that facilitate the lover’s pursuit of Eros, food for his soul that he consumes hoc tempore in the pursuit of knowledge, goodness and beauty, which incite him to excel in the only serious sport: Amor. "  Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei, pp. 100-2.****
         When passion marks the pathway, the meaning of “God is love” continues to unfold. Even heartbreaks trace the mystery, perhaps more than the good times. Jesus is alive in any religion that has Hafiz.
"Likewise, the Sufi poets consider the appearance of Jesus as an ever reoccurring event sustaining them in the present, using in this context the metaphor of the Messiah’s breath of inspiration’ (dam-i masih). Hafiz alludes to this in two verses: ‘Love’s physician is compassionate and endowed/ With the breath of Jesus,/ But whom should he assuage/ If you are without pain?’  and ‘To whom may I relate such a subtlety?/ She killed me—my stony-hearted mistress,/ Yet possessed the life-giving breath of Jesus.’ "Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei, pp. 101-102. ****
         When I trace passion’s pathway, I re-see my falling in love with horsemanship as it revealed the delicacies of power, more through the body than the mind. Another touch comes in the tender yet ecstatic touch of Beauty that clicks any second in the shutter release of a camera open to the master artist’s palette. The Beloved appears in the faces of whatever lines have been pre-formed in each human’s origin. From Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei’s section “The Primordial Disposition of Man and the Religion of Love”:
"According to the Qur’an, man was created with an ‘original disposition that God instilled within him’ (fitrat Allah ) and formed with a ‘fundamentally immutable God-given nature’ (la-tabdil li-khalqi’illahi , Q30:30). Basing themselves on this evidence from their holy scripture, Persian poets drove this classical theolgical doctrine up several theosophical notches higher, maintaining that man’s nature had been already moulded and framed to develop according to the nature of the divine attributes of Beauty, Truth and Goodness, and inclined to follow the ‘Straight Path of Love and Mercy’ (‘ishq, mahabbat, rahmat ) long before birth."  Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei, p. 87 ****
         In last night’s dream, I set a herd of horses free but with insufficient preparation for their safe passage to the intended pasture. Perhaps the dream meant to guide me toward providing context around the metaphors of intoxication: the tavern, the love-making, fast horses. My first taste of riding came in cantering narrow woodland trails and ducking branches. It was intoxicating and served to hook me. Without the wild taste it’s unlikely I’d have dedicated myself to a ten-year discipline of riding slow circles in arenas that was necessary for me to develop and to trust “feel.” I don’t recommend riding wild, and I no longer drink alcoholic beverages. Such experiences and images are meant to be contained and translated into the Religion of Love.
"If we approach the transcendental significance of some of these symbols, how the process leading to the sublimation of these metaphors occurred—and thus the raison d’etre sustaining them—is easy to discern. The phrase ‘it is delightful to be mad’, for example, poetically speaking conveys a self-evident sense. Understood spiritually, however, the phrase makes no sense whatsoever unless we understand it to imply a madness above and beyond reason, rather than below reason: the lower, irrational—psychotic—insanity. Likewise, the expression ‘the joys of intoxication’ makes perfect sense to every secular sensibility attuned to wine’s bacchanalian pleasures. But to the philosophical temperament focused on progress in the spiritual life, it makes sense only when it refers to the drunkenness that contemplation of the Beautiful inspires—or, as the Sufis say, the ecstatic rapture that the sight of the beauteous visage of the Cup-bearer (saqi ) rouses in the beholder—stimulating intoxication without any hangover. In the same vein, the joys of freedom extollled by the Sufi poets involve their liberation from the vices of greed, anger, pride and emancipation from the vanity of ambition for honours and high rank…That wanton witness-of-beauty (shahid-i harja’i ) celebrated in Sufi mystical poetry is that icon of supreme loveliness, whose ravishingly attractive countenance is everywhere reflected, both in man and nature alike." Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei, p. 92 ****

===========================================
* Although I’m not finding it as evident in Lewisohn’s volume on Hafiz, references to horses and riding are abundant in the Persian mystic poets. For example, see Riding from Passion to Compassion.  Also, as I progress into the next chapter in Hafiz and the Religion of Love,The Erotic Spirit: Love, Man and Satan in Hafiz’s Poetry” by Ali Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, pp. 107-121, I find reference to Ahmad Ghazali: “Love exists first in an unadulterated form which flows to existence from God. Lingering on the border of existence, love waits for the human Spirit so that it can come down to the world. In Ghazali’s metaphor, the Spirit is depicted as the steed of love, which transports love to the earth. Here on earth, love assumes many faces—sometimes it is a sensual love, sometimes love between parent and child, and so on—but ultimately love seeks to return back to its place of origin. In its return journey, love is the steed and spirit is the rider, bringing love to its original abode” (p. 110). 
** Peter Avery, “Poem VI,” p. 27 in The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz, Archetype, 2007. For a more accessible sampling of Avery’s translations, see Hafiz of Shiraz, translated by Peter Avery & John Heath Stubbs, 1957/2003. Also, Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door: Thirty Poems of Hafez. Robert Bly & Leonard Lewisohn. HarperCollins, 2008.
*** David George Haskell, The Forest Unseen, 2012.

**** Husayn Ilahi-Ghomshei’s chapter “The Principles of the Religion of Love in Classical Persian Poetry,” translated by Lewishohn in Hafiz and the Religion of Love, pp. 77-106. The ghazals that are quoted come from Hafiz, Khanlari’s ed., #182 and #59. These ghazals, in complete form, can be found in The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz, translated by Peter Avery, #182 on p. 242 and #59 on p. 96.