English texts concerning Spirituality and Mysticism

Texts that I've recently added to this page are marked by the symbol New !. Some of the texts I received through my subscription to the "Centering Prayer / Thoughts for the Day"-maillist. If you want to subscribe too, you can find more information at http://www.egroups.com/group/cps-tfd/info.html.

 

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Quotations

Tea-wisdom

I like very much the tea-blends of Celestial Seasonings   :-)
But not only the teas themselves are nice; on the boxes in which they are packed can be found some interesting quotations. In the following section I'll pass some of these texts on to you!

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SERENITY
(taken from Celestial Seasonings' "Green Tea")

"Speak to me of serenity, of treasures yet to be found, of peace that flows like a river. Tell me of tranquil places that no hand has marred, no storm has scarred. Give me visions of standing in sunlight or the feeling of spring mist against my cheek as I five and move and breathe. Show me paths that wind through wild lilies and beds of buttercups. Sing me songs like the mingled voices of wrens and meadowlarks, the loving of gentle cows, the soft other-call of a mare to her colt…. Find me a place in the sunlight to sit and think and listen to the sweet inner voice that says so quietly, 'Peace, be still.'"

JOYCE SEQUICHIE HIFLER, A Cherokee Feast of Days, Council Oak Books

DETERMINATION
(taken from Celestial Seasonings' "Ginseng Energy")

"There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,
Can circumvent or hinder or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul.
Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great;
All things give way before it, soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force
Of the sea-seeking river in its course,
Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait?
Each well-born soul must win what it deserves.
Let the fool prate of luck.
The fortunate
Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves,
Whose slightest action or inaction serves
The one great aim. Why, even Death stands still,
And waits an hour sometimes for such a will."

ELLA WHEELER WILCOX

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL TO LIFE
(taken from Celestial Seasonings' "Tension Tamer")

"There are three material things… essential to life - These are pure air, water, and earth. There are three immaterial things… essential to life. These are admiration, hope, and the power of love.

  • Admiration - the power of discerning and taking delight in what is beautiful in visible form and lovely in human character; and, necessarily, striving to produce what is beautiful in form and to become what is lovely in character. 
  • Hope -the recognition, by true foresight, of better things to be reached hereafter, whether by ourselves or others; necessarily issuing in the straightforward and undisappointable effort to advance according to our proper power, the gaining of them. 
  • Love - both of family and neighbor, faithful and satisfied." 

JOHN RUSKIN

Literature

Some texts of Willa Cather (1873-1947)

P.S.: The titles above the following textfragments are from my hand! If you like the texts, you can find some more at The Willa Cather Homepage.

 

FROM 'MY ANTONIA'

  • I've chosen this text because it gives such a beautiful description of a mystical experience of nature. 

While grandmother took the pitchfork we found standing in one of the rows and dug potatoes, while I picked them up out of the soft brown earth and put them into the bag, I kept looking up at the hawks that were doing what I might so easily do. When grandmother was ready to go, I said I would like to stay up there in the garden awhile. She peered down at me from under her sunbonnet. 'Aren't you afraid of snakes?' 'A little,' I admitted, 'but I'd like to stay, anyhow.' 'Well, if you see one, don't have anything to do with him. The big yellow and brown ones won't hurt you; they're bull-snakes and help to keep the gophers down. Don't be scared if you see anything look out of that hole in the bank over there. That's a badger hole. He's about as big as a big 'possum, and his face is striped, black and white. He takes a chicken once in a while, but I won't let the men harm him. In a new country a body feels friendly to the animals. I like to have him come out and watch me when I'm at work.'
        Grandmother swung the bag of potatoes over her shoulder and went down the path, leaning forward a little. The road followed the windings of the draw; when she came to the first bend, she waved at me and disappeared.
        I was left alone with this new feeling of lightness and content. I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines. The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground. There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave. The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots.
        I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

NIGHT ON THE LAND

  • From the short story The Bohemian Girl, in the story-collection Trollgarden. Once more a lyric description of a landscape. 

The moonlight flooded that great, silent land. The reaped fields lay yellow in it. The straw stacks and poplar windbreaks threw sharp black shadows. The roads were white rivers of dust. The sky was a deep, crystalline blue, and the stars were few and faint. Everything seemed to have succumbed, to have sunk to sleep, under the great, golden, tender, midsummer moon. The splendour of it seemed to transcend human life and human fate. The senses were too feeble to take it in, and every time one looked up at the sky one felt unequal to it, as if one were sitting deaf under the waves of a great river of melody.

WILLA CATHER

EXPERIENCE CHANGES US IRREVOCABLY

  • The following text is taken from Eleonor Porter's novel "Mary Marie" (1920). You can find some of her novels on the Internet. This novel tells the tale of a thirteen, fourteens years old girl, Mary Marie, whose parents have divorced.
            It's the second book of Portern that I've read, and I liked it just as well as the first ("Just David"). Both books tell their story from the perspective of a child, but that doesn't make them unsuitable for "grownups". On the contrary! This perspective can be very refreshing indeed! Especially so because the author has spiced her story with a large dose of humor.
            I've chosen the fragment below because it gives such a beautiful description of how we are being changed irrevocably by life. 

One day it was about getting married that Mother talked with me, and I said I was so glad that when you did n't like being married, or got tired of your husband, you could get UNmarried, just as she did, and go back home and be just the same as you were before.
        But Mother did n't like that, at all. She said no, no, and that I must n't talk like that, and that you COULD N'T go back and be the same. And that she'd found it out. That she used to think you could. But you could n't. She said it was like what she read once, that you couldn't really be the same any more than you could put the dress you were wearing back on the shelf in the store, and expect it to turn back into a fine long web of cloth all folded up nice and tidy, as it was in the first place. And, of course, you couldn't do that - after the cloth was all cut up into a dress!

ELEANOR H. PORTER

Mysticism

Walter Hilton: The Parable of the Pelgrim

  • The following text - written by the Carthusian monk Walter Hilton (died in 1396) - I've found on the WWW (at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library). "The Parable of the Pelgrim" gives a concise description of the mystical way. This version of the text has been abridged by Augustine Baker (1575 - 1641), a monk of the order of St. Benedict.

     

A certain man had a great desire to go to Jerusalem. Not knowing the right way, he inquired of one he hoped could direct him, and asked by what path he could reach there in safety. The other said, "The journey there is long and full of difficulties. There are several roads that appear and promise to lead there, but their dangers are too great. However, I know one way which, if you will faithfully follow according to the mark's and directions that I shall give you, will certainly lead you there. I cannot, however, promise you security from many frights, beatings, and other ill-usages and temptations of all kinds, yet if you only have courage and patience enough to suffer them without quarreling, or resisting, or troubling yourself about them, but pass on quietly, having this only in your mind, and sometimes on you tongue, 'I have naught, I am naught, I desire naught but to be in Jerusalem,' my life for yours, in due time you will get there in safety."
        The pilgrim, full of joy at the news said, "If only I arrive at length in safety at the place I desire so much, I care not what miseries I suffer on the way; therefore, only let me know the course I am to take, and, God willing, I shall not fail carefully to observe all your directions." - "Since you have so good a will," said the guide, "though I myself was never so happy as to be in Jerusalem, yet be assured that if you follow the instructions I shall give, you will arrive safe at the end of your journey."
        The advice is briefly this: Before taking the first step on the highway that leads there you must be firmly grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith. Moreover, whatever sins you find sullying your conscience you must cleanse by hearty penance and absolution according to the laws of the Church. Having done so begin your journey in God's name; but be sure to have with you two necessary instruments, Humility and Charity. These are contained in the words above mentioned, which must always be present to your mind, "I am naught, I have naught, I desire only one thing and that is our Lord Jesus, and to be with Him at peace in Jerusalem." The meaning and power of these words you must have continually, at least in your thoughts either expressly or virtually. Humility says, "I am nothing, I have nothing." Charity says, "I desire nothing but Jesus." You must never lose these two companions, neither will they consent to be separated from each other, for they agree lovingly together, and the deeper you establish yourself in humility the higher you will advance in charity, for the more you see and feel yourself to be nothing the more ardently you will see and love Jesus, that by Him who is All you may become something.
        This humility is to be exercised not so much in considering your own vileness and sinfulness, though in the beginning this consideration is good and beneficial, but rather in a quiet consideration of the infinite being and goodness of Jesus. You are to behold Him either through grace in sensible devotional knowledge of Him, or, at least, in a full and firm faith in Him. And such a contemplation of the infinite sanctity and goodness of Jesus will operate in your mind a much more pure, spiritual, solid and perfect humility, than the reflecting on your own nothingness, which produces a humility much more gross, boisterous and imperfect. In this mirror of sanctity you will behold yourself to be not only the most wretched, filthy creature in the world, but also, in the very substance of your soul, setting aside the foulness of sin, to be a mere nothing; for really, in comparison with Jesus who is All, you are nothing. And until you have and feel that you have the love of Jesus, although you think you have done ever so many good deeds, spiritually and worldly, you have nothing, for nothing but the love of Jesus will abide in and fill your soul. Therefore cast aside and forget all other things in order that you may have that which is the best of all. If you do this you will become a true pilgrim, who leaves behind him house, wife, children, friends, and goods, and denies himself all things in order that he may go on his journey lightly and without hindrance.
        If your desire for Jesus still continues and grows stronger, so that you go on your way courageously, they will then tell you that you may become ill, and perhaps with such a disease as will bring frightful dreads into your mind; or perhaps you will become very poor and you will find no charitable person to help you. Do not heed what they say, but if you should happen to fall into sickness or poverty, still have faith in Jesus and say, "I am naught, I have naught, I care for naught in this world, and I desire naught but the love of Jesus, that I may see Him at peace in Jerusalem."
        If it should ever happen that through some of these temptations and your own weakness, you waver and perhaps fall into sin, and thus lose the way for a time, return as soon as possible to the right path by using such remedies as the Church ordains. Do not think of your past sins, for that will harm you and favour your enemies; but make haste to go on your way as if nothing happened. Think only of Jesus, and of your desire to gain His love, and nothing will harm you.
        Finally, when your enemies see that you are so determined that neither sickness, fancies, poverty, life, death, nor sins discourage you, but that you will continue to seek the love of Jesus and nothing else, by continuing your prayer and other spiritual works, they will grow enraged and will not spare you the most cruel abuse. They will make their most dangerous assault by bringing before you all your good deeds and virtues, showing that all men praise, love, and honour you for your sanctity. This they will do to make you vain and proud. But if you offer your life to Jesus you will consider all this flattery and falsehood as deadly poison to your soul, and will cast it from you.
        In order to shun such temptations renounce all vain thoughts and think of Jesus only, resolving to know and love Him. After you have accustomed yourself to think of Him alone, any thoughts not relating to Him will be unwelcome and painful to you.
        If there is any work you are obliged to do for yourself or neighbour fail not to do it as soon and as well as you can, lest by delay it may distract your thoughts from Jesus. If it is unnecessary work do not think about it, but dismiss it from your thoughts saying, "I am naught, I can do naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but Jesus and His love."
        It will be necessary for you, as for all other pilgrims, to take, on the way, sleep and refreshments and sometimes innocent recreation; but if you use discretion in these things, although they seem to delay you, they will give you strength and courage to continue on your journey.
        To conclude, remember that your principal aim, and indeed only business, is to give your thoughts to the desire of Jesus, and to strengthen this desire by daily prayer and other spiritual works. And whatever you find suitable to increase that desire, be it praying or reading, speaking or being silent, working or resting, make use of it as long as your soul finds delight in it, and as long as it increases the desire of having and enjoying nothing but the love of Jesus and the blessed sight of Jesus in true peace in Jerusalem. Be assured that this good desire, thus cherished and continually increased, will bring you safely to the end of your pilgrimage.
        Observing these instructions, you are in the right path to Jerusalem. To proceed on this journey, it is necessary to do, inwardly and outwardly, such works as are suitable to your condition, and such as will help to increase in you the gracious desire that you have to love Jesus only. No matter what your works are, whether thinking, reading, preaching, labouring, etc., if you find that they draw your mind from worldly vanity and strengthen your heart and will more to the love of Jesus, it is good and profitable for you to pursue them. But if through custom, you find such works in time lose their power and virtue to increase this love, cast them aside and try some other works which you think will gain for you more grace and sanctity; for, although the inclination and desire of your heart for Jesus should never change, nevertheless the spiritual works you practice, such as prayer, reading, etc., in order to feed and strengthen this desire, may well be changed, according as you feel your spiritual welfare will be benefited by this change. Therefore, lest you hinder the freedom of your heart to love Jesus, do not think that because you have accustomed yourself to a certain form of devotion, that you cannot change it for the better.
        Before you have journeyed far, you must expect enemies of all kinds, who will surround you and busily endeavour to hinder you from going forward. Indeed, if they can by any means, they will, wither by persuasions, flatteries, or violence, force you to return to your former habits of sinfulness. For there is nothing annoys them so much as to see a resolute desire to love Jesus and to labour to find him. Consequently, they will conspire to drive out of your heart that good desire and love in which all virtues are comprised. The first enemies that will assault you will be the desires of the flesh, and vain fears of your corrupt heart. Joined with these will be unclean spirits, which, with sights and temptations, will seek to entice you to them, and draw you from Jesus. But do not believe anything they say, but betake yourself to your old and only secure remedy, answering - "I am naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but only the love of Jesus."
        If they endeavour to put dreads and doubts into your mind, and try to make you believe you have not done necessary penance to atone for your sins, do not believe them. Neither believe them if they say you have not sufficiently confessed your sins, and that you should return home to do penance better, before you have the boldness to go to Jesus. You are sufficiently acquitted of your sins, and there is no need at all that you should delay in order to ransack your conscience, for this will now but harm you, and either put you entirely out of your way, or at least unprofitably delay your toil.
        If they tell you that you are not worthy to have the love of Jesus, or to see Jesus, and that on that account you ought not to be so presumptuous as to desire and seek it, do not believe them, but go on, saying, "It is not because I am worthy, but because I am unworthy, that I desire to have the love of Jesus; for, once having that, I should become worthy. Therefore, I will never cease desiring it until I have obtained it. I was created for this love alone, and so, say and do what you will, I will desire it continually, and never cease to pray for it, and thus endeavour to obtain it."
        If you meet with any who seem to be your friends, and who in kindness would hinder your progress by entertaining you and seeking to draw you to sensual mirth by vain discourses and carnal pleasures, whereby you will be in danger of forgetting your pilgrimage, turn a deaf ear to them, answer them not; think only of this, that you would fain be at Jerusalem. If they offer you gifts and attractions, heed them not, but think ever of Jerusalem.
        If men despise you, lay false charges against you, defraud and rob you, or even beat and use you cruelly, for your life take no notice of them, but meekly content yourself with the injury received, and proceed as if nothing had happened to hinder you. This punishment, or even more, is as nothing if you can only arrive at Jerusalem, where you shall be recompensed for all you have endured.
        If your enemies see that you grow courageous, and that you will neither be seduced by flatteries nor disheartened by the pains and trials of your journey, but rather are contented with them, they will then be afraid of you. Notwithstanding all this, they will still pursue you on your way and seek every advantage against you, now and then endeavouring, either by flatteries or alarms, to stop and drive you back. Fear them not, but continue on your way thinking of nothing but Jerusalem and Jesus, whom you will find there.

Mystical poetry of Angelus Silesius (1624 - 1677)

  • The following poetry of Angelus Silesius I've translated from Angelus Silesius: De Hemelsche Zwerver [The Heavenly Tramp]. Ingeleid en vertaald door Hilbrandt Boschma, Deventer [Holland] 1945. This booklet in its turn is a translation of Angelus Silesius, Der Cherubinische Wandersmann. So bear in mind that the following texts are translations from translations! The captions of the poems are from my hand.

     
  • If anybody knows of an existing translation in English or even of the German original on the Internet, I would be very grateful indeed for a hint (alex.pot@spiritualiteit.net)!

     

 

FORGETTING YOURSELF IN GOD

Enjoying Gods kiss and forgetting yourself in Him
is more than - without love - knowing many a thing.

THE BIRTH OF CHRIST (IN YOUR SOUL)

Would Christ be born a thousand times in Bethlehem,
but not in your soul, you would be lost all the same.

GO WHERE YOU CAN'T GO

See what you can't see, go where you can't go,
hear what has no voice, and you will understand God.

Some mystical poems of the Sufi-mystic Rumi

  • The following poems are a selection of the poems that were sent to me by email because of my subscription to the Sunlight-list at ONElist.com. If you want to subscribe too, then pay a visit to Onelist.com, and subscribe to the Sunlight-list. 
  • Jalaluddin Rumi was a 13th-century Persian mystical poet and teacher who lived in Konya, Turkey. I can't say that I like all of his poems: sometimes his language is too far-fetched or too turgid for my taste; but then again: some of his poems are regular gems! 

 

STORY-WATER

A story is like the water
you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that's blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what's hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

(Mathnawi V, 228-236)
Coleman Barks, "The Essential Rumi," Castle Books, 1997
The Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi
Edited and Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson
Gibb Memorial Trust

God turns you from one feeling to another
and teaches by means of opposites,
so that you will have two wings to fly,
not one.

(II:1552; 1554)
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski

ALCHEMIST OF MY SOUL

O limitless and compassionate one,
high above the rest,
You have set ablaze the dry weeds of intellect.
You have come with a smile,
and thrown open the gates of my prison.
You have come to the lowly
and given to them with the generosity of God.

You are the call of the rising Sun,
the hope of all people in need.
You are the seeker, the goal,
and seeking itself.
Blazing like fire in every heart,
calming the mind of its restlessness,
you are the seer, the seen, and sight itself.

O Alchemist of my soul, essence of all truth,
once your cure appeared
everything else lost its meaning.

There was a time we lost ourselves in others,
a time we ate the best of foods.
There was time we relied on the intellect,
a time we looked for fortune -
but all this had no value in the end.

For a mouthful of food and some bitter herbs
we went everywhere,
we made so many plans -
one day it was Rome,
the next day it was Africa.

We entered a raging battlefield, for what? -
a few crumbs of bread.

Lose your soul in God's love, I swear
there is no other way.

Stay with that silence.
I once ran toward the knowledge of this world;
now the papers are packed, the pens are broken -
O Saaqi, bring on the wine!

"A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi,"
Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva, Bantam Books, 1992


Abandon being loved by people and practice loving God,
you who have such a high opinion of yourself.
You are really more silent than the night;
how long will you seek a buyer for your words?
Your hearers nod their heads in your presence,
but you waste your time in your passion to draw them near.
You say to me, "Don't be so envious,"
but how should I envy one who possesses nothing?
Instruction given to the worthless is like sketching in dust.
Instruct yourself in love of God and spiritual insight--
that endures like a pattern carved on solid stone.
Your own self is the only pupil ever really faithful to you.
All the others perish: where will you seek them, where?
While trying to make others erudite and eminent,
you are ruining yourself and draining what knowledge you have.
But when your heart is one with Reality,
you may speak, and not be afraid of becoming empty.
And so the Divine command, "Recite!" came to the Prophet,
saying, "O righteous one, this will not fail: it is an infinite ocean."

(Masnavi, V:3189-3198)
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski


THE BLOCKED ROAD

I wish I knew what you wanted.
You block the road and won't give me rest.
You pull my lead-rope one way, then the other.
You act cold, my darling!
Do you hear what I say?

Will this night of talking ever end?
Why am I still embarrassed and timid
about you? You are thousands.
You are one.
Quiet, but most articulate.

Your name is Spring.
Your name is wine.
Your name is the nausea
that comes from wine!

You are my doubting
and the lightpoints
in my eyes.

You are every image, and yet
I'm homesick for you.

Can I get there?
Where the deer pounces on the lion,
where the one I'm after's
after me?

This drum and these words keep pounding!
Let them both smash through their coverings
into silence.

Coleman Barks translation from
"Like This," Maypop, 1990


Every fantasy devours another fantasy:
one thought feeds on another.
You can't be delivered from fantasy
or fall asleep to escape from it altogether.
Your thoughts are like hornets, and your sleep is like the water
in which you are plunged: when you awake, the hornets return,
and many hornet-like fantasies fly in
and draw you now this way and then that way.
This mental fantasy is the least of the devourers:
the Almighty knows how great the others are.
Listen, flee from the hordes of devourers
toward the One who has said, "We are your Protector"*;
or if you can't hasten toward the Protector Himself,
toward the one who has gained that power of protection.

(V:729-735)
*Âl 'Imrân, 150
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski

YOU ASK ME
who are you and
with such a shaky
existence how can you
fall in love

how do I know
who am I or where I am
how could a simple wave
locate itself
in an ocean

you ask me
what am I seeking
above and beyond
the pure light
that I once was

and why am I
imprisoned in this cage
named body and
yet I claim to be
a free bird

how do I know
how I lost my way
I know for sure
I was all straight
before I was
seduced by love

"RUMI, Fountain of Fire", ghazal number 1517,
translated April 1991 by Nader Khalili,
Burning Gate Press, Los Angeles, 1994.

The penetrating intellect, when separated from its friends,
becomes like an archer whose bow is broken.
When something makes you rejoice in this world,
consider at that moment the parting from it.
Many have been gladdened by what made you glad,
yet in the end like the wind it escaped.
It will escape from you, too: don't set your heart upon it.
Escape from it before it flies from you.
Before the slipping away of your possessions,
say to the form of created things, like Mary,
"I take refuge from you with the Merciful God."*

(Mathnawi III:3693; 3698-3700)
*Maryam, 18

Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski

STILL SOME SECRETS

O friend, can't you see? -
Your face is flowing with light.
The whole world could get drunk
on the love found in your heart.

Don't run here and there
looking all around -
He is right inside you.

Is there any place where the Sun doesn't shine?
Is there anyone who can't see the full Moon?

Veil upon veil, thought upon thought -
Let go of them all,
For they only hide the truth.

Once you see the glory
Of his moon-like face,
what excuse could you have
for pain and sorrow?

Any heart without his love -
even the king's heart -
is a coffin for the dead.

Everyone can see God
within his own heart -
everyone who is not a corpse.
Everyone can drink
from the waters of life
and conquer death forever.

The veil of ignorance
covers the Sun and Moon;
It even causes Love to think, I am not divine.

O Shams, Blazing Light of Tabriz,
There are still some secrets of yours
that even I cannot tell.

Ode 505
"A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi,"
Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva, Bantam Books, 1992

DON'T GO TO SLEEP
this night
one night is worth
a hundred thousand souls

the night is generous
it can give you
a gift of the full moon
it can bless your soul
with endless treasure

every night when you feel
the world is unjust
never ending grace
descends from the sky
to soothe your souls

the night is not crowded like the day
the night is filled with eternal love
take this night
tight in your arms
as you hold a sweetheart

remember the water of life
is in the dark caverns
don't be like a big fish
stopping the life's flow
by standing in the mouth of a creek

even Mecca is adorned
with black clothes
showing that the heavens
are ready to grace
the human soul

even one prayer
in the Mecca of a night
is like a hundred
no one can claim
sleep can build
a temple like this

during a night
the blessed prophet
broke all the idols and
God remained alone
to give equally to all
an endless love

RUMI, ghazal number 947,
translated May 18, 1992,
by Nader Khalili.

INSIDE THIS NEW LOVE, DIE

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone
suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you have died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.

Ode 636
Coleman Barks
"These Branching Moments,"
Copper Beech Press, 1988

HAS DEATH ONLY JUST NOW AWAKENED YOU?

I've paid no attention to Your warnings:
while claiming to be an idol-breaker, I've really been an idol-maker.
Should I pay more attention to Your works or to death?
Let it be death, for death is like autumn,
and You are the root from which all leaves spring.
For years death has been beating the drum,
but only when time has fled does your ear hear.
In agony the heedless man cries from the depths of his soul,
"Alas, I am dying!" Has death only just now awakened you?
Death is hoarse from shouting:
from so many astounding blows, his drum skin has split,
but you enmeshed yourself in trivialities;
and only now do you apprehend this mystery of death.


Mathnawi VI:771-776
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
Threshold Books, 1996

THE INTELLECTUAL IS ALWAYS SHOWING OFF;
THE LOVER IS ALWAYS GETTING LOST

The intellectual is always showing off;
the lover is always getting lost.
The intellectual runs away, afraid of drowning;
the whole business of love is to drown in the sea.
Intellectuals plan their repose;
lovers are ashamed to rest.
The lover is always alone, even surrounded with people;
like water and oil, he remains apart.
The man who goes to the trouble
of giving advice to a lover
gets nothing. He's mocked by passion.
Love is like musk. It attracts attention.
Love is a tree, and lovers are its shade.


Ode 1957
translation by Kabir Helminski
Love is a Stranger
Threshold Books, 1993

LISTEN, O DROP, GIVE YOURSELF UP

Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!
In God's name, in God's name, sell and buy at once!
Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls.


Mathnawi, IV: 2619-2622
Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance
trans. Camille and Kabir Helminski
Threshold Books, 1996

Concerning Meditation

How to Cope With Thoughts During Meditation

  • From "A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard, pub by Harper & Row, pp. 32-33. This text was originally contributed to the cps-Thought for the Day mail list (more information about this list at http://www.findmail.com/list/cps-tfd) by Cindy Oberg-Hauser <coberghauser@mpr.org>
     
  • All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of the useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod. The world's spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. "Launch into the deep," says Jacques Ellul, "and you shall see."

Entering your Heart through Prayer

  • The following text I received because of my subscription to the "Centering Prayer / Thoughts for the Day"-maillist (if you want to subscribe too, read the instructions at the beginning of this page). It is a quotation from Writings from the "Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart", E Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, trans. (London: Faber & Faber, 1951). Cited in William Johnston, Christian Zen, Fordham University Press, New York 1997, p.80. The subject of this text is the socalled 'Jesusprayer', but maybe it can offer also some inspiration to people who use some other form of mantric prayer. 

You know, brother, how we breathe; we breathe the air in and out. On this is based the life of the body and on this depends its warmth. So, sitting down in your cell, collect your mind, lead it into the path of the breath along which the air enters in, constrain it to enter the heart altogether with the inhaled air, and keep it there. Keep it there, but do not leave it silent and idle; instead give it the following prayer: "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me." Let this be its constant occupation, never to be abandoned. For this work, by keeping the mind free from dreaming, renders it unassailable to suggestions of the enemy and leads it to Divine desire and love. Moreover, brother, strive to accustom your mind not to come out too soon; for at first it feels very lonely in that inner seclusion and imprisonment. But when it gets accustomed to it, it begins on the contrary to dislike darting about among external things. For the kingdom of God is within us, and for a man who has seen it within, and having found it through pure prayer, has experienced it, everything outside loses its attraction and value. It is no longer unpleasant and wearisome for him to be within.

Contemplative Prayer as 'Divine Therapy'

  • The following text I received because of my subscription to the "Centering Prayer / Thoughts for the Day"-maillist (if you want to subscribe too, read the instructions at the beginning of this page). It is a quotation from Thomas Keating, "Invitation to Love", Continuum, New York. 1996 

The regular practice of contemplative prayer initiates a healing process that might be called the 'divine therapy.' The level of deep rest accessed during the prayer periods loosens up the hardpan around the emotional weeds stored in the unconscious, of which the body seems to be the warehouse. The psyche begins to evacuate spontaneously the undigested emotional material of a lifetime, opening up new space for self-knowledge, freedom of choice, and the discovery of the divine presence within. As a consequence, a growing trust in God, a bonding with the Divine Therapist, enables us to endure the process.

THOMAS KEATING

A Wandering Mind cannot be avoided

  • "The Collected Works of Teresa of Avila." Volume One. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez. ICS Publications, Washington, D.C. 1976. [Spiritual Testimonies] page 341 

On the vigil of St. Lawrence, just after receiving Communion, my mental faculties were so scattered and distracted I couldn't help myself, and I began to envy those who live in deserts and to think that since they don't hear or see anything they are free of this wandering of the mind. I heard: "You are greatly mistaken, daughter; rather, the temptations of the devil there are stronger; be patient, for as long as you live, a wandering mind cannot be avoided."

Living With Other People As a Way to Contemplation

  • Merton, Thomas. New Seeds Of Contemplation. New York: New Directions, 1961, p 191. This text and  all the other texts of Thomas Merton on this page I received from the Thomas Merton-L mailing list. If you want to try out this list and subscribe to it, send an email to listserv@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU, containing as sole line of text the following message: "subscribe merton-l Your_first_name Your_last_name". 

Very few men are sanctified in isolation. Very few become perfect in absolute solitude. Living with other people and learning to lose ourselves in the understanding of their weakness and deficiencies can help us to become true contemplatives. For there is no better means of getting rid of the rigidity and harshness and coarseness of our ingrained egoism, which is the one insuperable obstacle to the infused light and action of the Spirit of God.

Spirituality in general

Of the vision of a robber, who was converted to Franciscan friar

  • This text is taken form Ch.26 of the 'Fioretti' of St. Francis. The complete text of this book can be downloaded at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. As to why I've inserted this text here: I think it's a wonderful story. That reason in itself would be sufficient reason, but I also like very much the theme of having patience, of allow yourself time to ripen spiritually, that plays a role in the vision narrated here.

     

Then St Francis bade the three robbers stay, and with much kindness and charity comforted them, giving them many proofs of the mercy of God, and promising them to ask the Lord to have pity on their sins. He told them that his mercy knows no bounds, and that were their sins without number the mercy of God is even greater, according to the word of the Gospel and of the Apostle St Paul, who says our Blessed Lord came into the world to save sinners. The three robbers on hearing these words resolved to renounce the devil and his works; and St Francis received them into the Order, in which they did great penance.
        Two of them died shortly after their conversion, and went to heaven; but the third survived, and, reflecting on his sins, he did penance during fifteen years. Besides the ordinary fasts which he observed with the brethren, he fasted at other times three days in the week on bread and water, went barefooted, wore no other vestment but his tunic, and never slept after Matins. During this time St Francis passed from this miserable life.
        The converted robber having continued to do penance for many years, it so happened that one night, after Matins, he was visited by such a strong temptation to sleep, that he could neither pray nor watch according to his custom. At last, finding it impossible to resist any longer, he threw himself on his bed to sleep. No sooner had he laid down his head than he was rapt in spirit and led up into a very high mountain, on the side of which was a deep precipice bordered with sharp stones and large rocks all broken to pieces, so that the precipice was frightful to look at; and the angel who conducted the brother pushed him with such violence, that he fell into the abyss, and rolling down from stone to stone and from rock to rock, he reached the bottom shattered all to pieces, as it seemed to him. As he lay on the ground in this pitiable condition, the angel said to him: "Arise, for thou hast a much longer journey to take." And the brother answered: "Thou art both cruel and unreasonable. Thou seest that I am about to die from my fall, which has shattered me all to pieces, and thou tellest me to arise." On this the angel, coming near him, touched him, healing all his wounds.
        He then showed him an immense plain, full of sharp and pointed stones, covered with thorns and brambles, and told him that he was to run all over the plain, and cross it barefooted till he reached the other end, where was a burning furnace, which he was to enter. And the brother having crossed the plain with great pain and suffering, the angel ordered him to enter the furnace, as it was meet for him to do. The brother exclaimed: "Alas, what a cruel guide thou art! Thou seest that I am nearly dead, having crossed this horrible plain; and to rest me thou commandest me to enter this burning furnace"; and looking up, he saw all around many demons with iron pitchforks in their hands; and as he hesitated to obey the angel, they pushed him into the furnace. When he was in the furnace, he looked around and saw one who had formerly been his companion burning all over from head to foot; and he said to him: "O my unhappy companion, how camest thou here?" And he answered: "Go a little farther, and thou shalt find my wife; she will tell thee why we are damned." Then the brother, going a little farther, saw the said woman surrounded with flames; and he said to her: "O unfortunate and miserable woman, why are thou condemned to suffer such a cruel torment?" "Because," she answered, "at the time of the great famine which St Francis had foretold, my husband and I cheated the people, and sold them wheat and oats in a false measure. It is for this that I am condemned to burn in this dreadful place." Having heard these words, the angel who conducted the brother drew him out of the furnace, and said to him: "Prepare thyself now for a very horrible journey." Then the brother answered him sorrowfully: "O cruel guide, thou hast no compassion on me. Thou seest how I am almost burnt to death in this furnace, and thou preparest for me another horrible and dangerous journey."
        Then the angel touching him, he became whole and strong; after which he led him to a bridge, which it was impossible to pass without great danger, for it was slightly built, very narrow, and very slippery, without any parapets, while underneath there flowed a terrible river full of serpents, scorpions and dragons, which produced a great stench. Then said the angel to him: "Go over the bridge, as by all means thou must cross it." And the brother answered: "How can I cross it without falling into that dangerous river?" The angel said to him: "Follow me, and place thy foot where thou shalt see me place mine, and thou shalt cross it safely." Then the brother walked behind the angel as he had ordered him, and reached the middle of the bridge, when suddenly the angel flew away, and leaving the brother, went on to a very high mountain at a great distance from the bridge. When the brother saw whither the angel had flown, being without his guide and looking down, he saw all those terrible animals with their heads out of the water, and their mouths open ready to devour him, if he were to fall into the river; and he trembled much with fear, not knowing what to do or what to say, as he could neither go back nor go forward.
        Seeing himself in such tribulation, and having no refuge but in God, he bent down, and clinging to the bridge, with all his heart and with many tears he recommended himself to the Lord, praying him to have mercy on him. Having finished his prayer, it seemed to him as if wings were growing out of his back, and he waited with great joy till they should be large enough to enable him to fly away from the bridge, and go to the spot whither the angel had flown. After waiting a little time, his impatience to leave the bridge became so great that he tried to fly; but his wings not having reached their growth, he fell on the bridge, and the feathers came off; upon which he clung again to the bridge, as he had done before, and recommended himself to God. Having finished his prayer, it seemed to him as if the wings were growing again; but losing patience a second time, he tried to fly before the wings were fully grown, and falling down on the bridge as before, the feathers came off. And seeing that it was his impatience to fly away which made him fall down thus, he said within himself: "If my wings begin to grow a third time, I will most certainly wait until they are large enough to enable me to fly away without falling." And having come to this decision, he saw the wings begin to grow for the third time, and waited so long that they might attain their growth, that it seemed to him as if more than a hundred and fifty years had elapsed between the first growth of his wings and the third.
        At last he arose for the third time, and exerting all his strength, he flew up to the spot whither the angel had flown before him; and knocking at the gate of the place into which he had entered, the porter asked of him who he was and whence he came. To this he answered: "I am one of the Friars Minor." The porter said to him: "Wait a little whilst I go and fetch St Francis, to see if he knows thee." While the porter was gone to fetch St Francis, the brother began to examine the wonderful walls of the palace which appeared so luminous and so transparent, that he could see through them the choirs of saints, and what they were doing.
        As he was struck with wonder at this sight, St Francis came towards him, with Brother Bernard and Brother Giles, followed by a great multitude of saints, both men and women, who had followed him in life, and they appeared to be innumerable. Then St Francis said to the porter: "Let him come in, for he is one of my friars." As soon as he had entered, he felt such consolation and such sweetness, that he forgot all the tribulations he had gone through, as if they had never been. And St Francis, taking him inside, showed him
[some part of the text seems to be missing here; AP] that thou return to the world; thou shalt remain there seven days, during which thou shalt prepare thyself with great devotion and great care; for after the seven days I will come and fetch thee, and then thou shalt be with me in this abode of the blessed." St Francis wore a most wonderful cloak adorned with beautiful stars, and his five stigmata were like five stars, so bright that all the palace illumined by their rays. And Brother Giles was adorned with a blazing light, and he saw there many other holy brothers whom he had not known in the world.
        Having taken leave of St Francis, he returned, much against his will, to the world. When he awoke and came back to himself, the brothers were singing prime; so that the vision had lasted only from matins to prime, though it seemed to him as if many years had elapsed. He related to the guardian all the vision from beginning to end. After seven days he fell ill of a fever, and on the eighth day St Francis came to him, as he had promised with a great multitude of glorious saints, and conducted his soul to life eternal in the kingdom of the blessed.

The Only True Joy On Earth

  • Merton, Thomas. "New Seeds of Contemplation". New Directions Publishing Co. 1961, p. 25. 

The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls. In His love we possess all things and enjoy fruition of them, finding Him in them all. And thus as we go about the world, everything we meet and everything we see and hear and touch, far from defiling, purifies us and plants in us something more of contemplation and of heaven.

Short of this perfection, created things do not bring us joy but pain. Until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us. And the greatest misfortune is to be dead to the pain they inflict on us, and not to realize what it is.

The Secret of Interior Peace

  • Merton, Thomas. "New Seeds of Contemplation". New Directions Publishing Co. 1961, p. 207-208. 

The secret of interior peace is detachment. Recollection is impossible for the man who is dominated by all the confused and changing desires of his own will. And even if those desires reach out for the good things of the interior life, for recollection, for peace, for the pleasures of prayer, if they are no more than the natural and selfish desires they will make recollection difficult and even impossible. You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection. You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer. If you give up all these desires and seek one thing only, God's will, He will give you recollection and peace in the middle of labor and conflict and trial.

The Meaning of Spiritual Poverty and Desolation

  • Merton, Thomas. "New Seeds of Contemplation". New Directions Publishing Co. 1961, p. 185. 

Little do we realize the meaning of spiritual poverty, of emptiness, of desolation, of total abandonment in the mystical life. Contemplative experience is not arrived at by the accumulation of grandiose thoughts and visions or by the practice of heroic mortifications. It is not "something you can buy" with any coin, however spiritual it might seem to be. It is a pure Gift of God, and it HAS TO BE a gift, for that is part of its very essence. It is a gift of which we can never, by any action of ours, make ourselves fully and strictly worthy. Indeed, contemplation itself is not necessarily a sign of worthiness or sanctity at all. It is a sign of the goodness of God, and it enables us to believe more firmly in His goodness, to trust in Him more, above all to be more faithful in our friendship with Him. All these should normally grow up as the fruits of contemplation. But do not be surprised if contemplation springs out of pure emptiness, in poverty, dereliction and spiritual night.

Do not Pile Wood on the Fire before it is well lit

  • Merton, Thomas. "New Seeds of Contemplation". New Directions Publishing Co. 1961, p. 207. 

How many there must be who have smothered the first sparks of contemplation by piling wood on the fire before it was well lit. The stimulation of interior prayer so excites them that they launch out into ambitious projects for teaching and converting the whole world, when all that God asks of them is to be quiet and keep themselves at peace, attentive to the secret work He is beginning in their souls.

How Can I Unfold this Rose of my Life?

  • Author of this poem: Bryan T. Burgess. It was sent to me by Maaike Schootstra. 

UNFOLDING THE ROSE

It is only a tiny rosebud
A flower of God's design
But I can not unfold the petals
' With these clumsy hands of mine

The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I
God opens this flower so sweetly
While in my hand they die

If I cannot unfold a rosebud
This flower of God's design
Then how can I have the wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?

So I'll trust Him for leading
Each moment of my day
I will look to Him for guidance
Each step of the pilgrimway

The pathway that lies before me
Only my Heavenly Father knows
I'll trust him to unfold the moments
Just as He unfolds the rose.

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