Monday, 21 November 2011

Fifth column of the postmodern kind: Iranians supporting a military strike against their own country are brazen and hypocritical.

This opinion piece by Hamid Dabashi in Al-Jazeera ought to be written in gold letters and force-read to every Iranian in diaspora (esp. those in the US), and the Ne-Con/Zionist sponsored site Iranian.com ought to be hacked and this article featured 1000 times on it.

Hamid Dabashi



New York, NY - The term "Fifth Column" is believed to have been coined in 1936 by Emilio Mola y Vidal (1887-1937), a nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), as his army of four columns was approaching Madrid, and he said that a "Fifth Column" would join them from within the city. Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (1938) is a homage to that coinage.

The expression has ever since developed to mean the militant supporters of an approaching enemy that would aid and abet them - or give them "aid and comfort", as the Article III Section 3 of the US Constitution delineates "treason" - once they enter their target destination. 

In the age of globalised imperialism and the chimerical creature called "humanitarian intervention", we now seem to have chanced upon a renewed conception of the "Fifth Column" one might venture to call "postmodern". The question that the term now raises is where precisely does noble opposition to a tyrannical regime end, and treacherous collaboration with belligerent warmongering against one's own people begins.  

Three consecutive and dramatic events - the NATO military intervention that led to the downfall of Gaddafi, the renewed Isareli bellicose warmongering against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the spin that US and Israel put on the IAEA report about the Iranian nuclear programme - have all come together to give rise to this new mode in the formation of a "postmodern Fifth Column" that is now winking and elbowing to entice and encourage the US and Israel to invade Iran. 

This emerging band of Iranian Fifth Columnists took their crudest clue from two back-to-back interviews that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave to Voice of America and BBC Persian programmes in October 2011, in which she said the US would have helped the Green Movement if they were asked to do so. Their palates salivating since the NATO military intervention in Libya, these Fifth Columnists went positively gluttonous at the idea and soon got to work on the project.

Some of their most brazen and hypocritical have openly asked for the US to invade Iran (one of them claiming that the annual traffic and even cancer statistics in Iran would be less than the casualties of a potential war, while another uses creative accounting with the low number of civilian casualties in Libya), while others are using convoluted Orwellian Newspeak of the crudest kind hoping to camouflage their treachery. Those who have openly asked for military strike (aka "humanitarian intervention") a la Libya against their own homeland are beyond redemption. I have very little to say about them, for history itself is a harsh and unforgiving judge. It is this latter group - the Orwellian Newspeakers - I have in mind when I refer to them as "postmodern Fifth Columnists".
Confusing the concepts 

"War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength."
- George Orwell, 1984
In order to get their mission accomplished, what these postmodern Fifth Columnists have been doing is to start loosening the solid screws of certain key concepts, making them less trustworthy and reliable. They create confusion and chaos in the minds of people they target by way of paving the way for a military strike against Iran, presenting it as something good and liberating: not a military invasion, but "a humanitarian intervention". First in Libya, they say, then in Syria, and then ("perhaps, no I did not quite say that, did I, but should the circumstances demand, yes why not") Iran. Their manner of speech is in fact quite pre-Orwellian and entirely akin to Lord Polonius instructing Reynaldo as to how to spy on his son Laertes without appearing to do so: "See you now; / Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth: / And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, / With windlasses and with assays of bias, / By indirections find directions out ..." 

If you pardon the crudity of their diction and bear with their pedestrian politics and prose, what they do and say is the Orwellian nightmare all over again: They issue a statement calling it "against war", which in fact paves the way for war. As Orwell would say, "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" - all to the letter of the insight: Orwell’s prophetic soul! 

The Orwellian Newspeak puts a new spin on reality in their prose and politics. In a statement that they issue against war they in fact say that the threat of war is not that serious, and that even warning against it is treacherous to the cause of liberty in Iran. And they do so with a straight face. As Syme would say: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." 

Their verbiage, double-talk and speaking from both sides of their mouth is of course not lost on careful and caring readers who have point by point dissected (in Persian) their position and exposed their hypocrisy. They repeat the mantra that Iran is a threat to world peace, the singular line of Israeli propaganda machinery, as if Israel is the singular source of peace and serenity for this world. Meanwhile, they beat the drum of war against Iran, all the while calling their statement "against war". The Orwellian Newspeak is no longer merely obscene. It is clinically deranged.

As a key example, these postmodern Fifth Columnists have started playing tootsie with the idea of imperialism: There is no longer any imperialism, they insist. This is "an old discourse" (they love the Persian word coined for "discourse" - gofteman - so much that they keep using, abusing and misusing it). Imperialism was something of the past, and only the retarded leftists keep reproducing it uselessly. Meanwhile, some of these Fifth Columnists used to be militant Stalinists in their youth.

But now, having moved from Tehran to Tehrangeles, imperialism looks démodé, out of fashion: The US army is out vacationing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, all around the globe. The US has upwards of 700 military bases around the globe, as the late Chalmers Johnson so painstakingly documented, including their 234 military golf courses scattered all over the world, simply for entertainment purposes. Literally hundreds upon hundreds of books and articles detailing the specific contours of US imperialism - most recently the three volumes of Chalmers Johnson's Blowback Trilogy - are just non-existent, for "ignorance is strength".

Quickly connected to this cavalier dismissal of imperialism as a global phenomenon, these postmodern Fifth Columnists also say that "national sovereignty" and "independence" no longer means anything. Wake up and smell the globalised postmodern roses, they say. Countries like Iran (or Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) no longer have any claim to their own territorial integrity as a site of potential resistance to predatory capitalism. Nationalism is tribalism, and this tribalism has made a monster out of "the West", they insist.

While rebelling against homegrown tyrants, the poor inhabitants of these countries have (entirely unbeknownst to themselves, but discovered by these postmodernists in Tehrangeles) also lost any claim of sovereignty over their own homeland. "I am sorry, then," they say along with Burgundy to the poor Cordelia of these unfortunate nations. "You have so lost a father / That you must lose a husband." If they lack democracy as approved by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) they have no claim to national sovereignty either. 

Some create a boogeyman out of "colonialism", a word which these expat professors navigating their SUVs between one college campus in California and another always like to put into scare quotes. So no, colonialism does not exist. Palestinians are just having fun with the humanitarian intervention of Zionism into their living rooms. No sir, from Fanon to Said to Spivak - from Jose Marti to W E B Dubois to Malcolm X, from Mahatma Gandhi to Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor: They were all boogeymen frightening folks out of their wits. "Ignorance is strength"? No sir, ignorance is bliss. 

There is no colonialism, no imperialism, no national sovereignty - these are all fictions that "old lefties" have made up.

Hooray for humanitarian intervention

To crown these pieces of rare jewellery, these postmodern Fifth Columnists celebrate the idea of "humanitarian intervention". No, they insist, this is not a military strike, nor is it imperialism. It is "humanitarian intervention" - just as the US and NATO say it is, from which sources these good folks take their cues. The link between knowledge and power has scarce been more at a gunpoint. 

Not that these folks care to read anything beyond their own statements - but nevertheless: In Reading Humanitarian Intervention: Human Rights and the Use of Force in International Law (2007), Anne Orford goes back to the 1990s, almost two decades before the Libyan uprising, when "humanitarian intervention" first posited as a move beyond imperialism and national sovereignty. Anne Orford demonstrates in exquisite detail how this very "humanitarian intervention" was in fact a ruse for very old-fashioned imperial designs in a new register. Bringing feminist, postcolonial, legal and psychoanalytic theory together, Orford took the bogus notion of "humanitarian intervention" to task on legal and political grounds. 

In Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009), Mahmood Mamdani too took the crisis in Darfur back to the historical context of Sudan, where the conflict in fact began as a civil war (1987-1989) between nomadic and peasant tribes, triggered by a severe drought that had expanded the Sahara Desert. Mamdani then links the conflict to how the British colonial officials had in fact artificially tribalised Darfur, dividing its population into "native" and "settler" tribes - very much on the model that Nicholas Dirks demonstrates in his Caste of Mind how the British recast the caste system for their own colonial interests.

The involvement of the Sudanese opposition parties gave rise in 2003 to two rebel movements, leading to a brutal insurgency and counterinsurgency. The Cold War then exacerbated the civil war in neighboring Chad, creating a confrontation between Gaddafi and the Soviet Union on one side, and the Reagan administration, allied with France and Israel on the other, moving into Darfur and violently exacerbating the conflict.

By 2003, Mamdani demonstrates, the war involved national, regional and global forces, including the US and Europe, who now saw the conflict as part of "the War on Terror" and called for a military invasion dressed up as "humanitarian intervention". All such historical facts on the ground were categorically whitewashed under the jazzed-up urgency of "humanitarian intervention". Stanley Motss/Dustin Hoffman of "Wag the Dog" (1997) could not have produced the scenario any more lavishly. 

When making a case for the military strike against Libya, even President Obama saw the hypocrisy at the heart of the operation when Bahrain and Yemen (as the most glaring examples) were so loudly calling for comparison. President Obama sought to explain the cherry-picking in terms of the coincidence of American "values" and American "interests".  But these Iranian "humanitarian interventionists" are even blunter than the American president in seeing no innate contradiction in their hypocrisy. 

If you were to take New York buses these days, you may notice from your windows that New York cabs have recently started sporting advertisements for "New York Dolls" available at "Gentlemen's Clubs". It must be something in the air:  Why call bordello houses bordello houses when you can call them "Gentlemen's Club" - or call imperialism by its name when you can call it "humanitarian intervention"? Bordello houses and imperialism are really very old and cliché "discourses" - "Gentlemen's Club" and "humanitarian intervention" are far gentler and kinder Newspeaks.   

From Iran to Islamic Republic 

Another gimmick of these postmodern Fifth Columnists is to try to silence their opposition by accusing them of being agents of the Islamic Republic - not a very imaginative trick, you may think, but nevertheless seemingly effective in the infested pool of exile communities. If you were ever to dare as much as utter a word against these inanities they weave together, then you must be a paid agent of the Islamic Republic.

That people who object to their inanities have served repeated jail terms in the dungeons of the Islamic Republic, who have gone to the brink of death and come back during their hunger strikes, have written against Khamenei and the Islamic Republic while in Evin prison, that there are people opposed to their warmongering who have barely escaped from the firing squad of the Islamic Republic, people whose parents have been butchered by the agents of the Islamic Republic, makes no difference to these valiant motorists daring the elements of the DuPont Circle and Los Angeles highways. 

"Some of these people have never been as much as slapped once in their lives," said Akbar Ganji recently in an interview. Ganji is perhaps the most prominent human rights activist who opposes waging war against Iran. "And they call people like me agents of Islamic Republic."

After his youthful attraction to Muslim revolutionaries in the late 1970s, Akbar Ganji emerged as one of the most courageous investigative journalists and human rights activists of his generation, exposing the criminal atrocities of the Islamic Republic, a feat that has twice landed him in the dungeons of the theocracy for more than six years, led almost to his death after a prolonged hunger strike, and for which he and his family continue to pay dearly. 

What representational legitimacy that the pro-war (excuse me, pro-"humanitarian intervention") advocates lacked, the Wall Street Journal was happy to manufacture for them in a quick fix by implicating the dissident voices inside Iran - a gimmick that did not quite work when Akbar Ganji gave chapter and verse from the specific positions of major oppositional voices inside Iran (some in fact from inside the notorious Evin prison) against military intervention. Even before Akbar Ganji, the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had very specifically said that should there be a military strike, the Reformists and non-Reformists will be united against any harm coming Iran’s way - a fact that even Haaretz reported to its Isareli readers, but escaped the attention of these warmongers. 

There is a vast and insurmountable difference between being opposed to the criminal atrocities of the Islamic Republic and becoming the Fifth Column of an US/Israeli design on Iran. The postmodern Fifth Columnists have confused the two and have from the nobility of one now degenerated into the treachery of the other. 
Massive crackdowns on the opposition, belligerent Sultanism, and many other reasons indicate that this ghastly regime is headed for the dustbin of history. And yet when the first bomb is dropped on Iran, this entire nation will be united under those bombshells, precisely when these postmodern Fifth Columnists from Washington DC to Los Angeles will jump on their SUVs, hit the nearest highway and run for cover. Who now remembers Kanan Makiya, Ahmad Chalabi or Fouad Ajami? Their ignoble names, which incited violence against Iraq, are now forgotten for good reasons.

Perhaps the most magnificent response to one such "humanitarian interventionist" has come from a courageous oppositional figure named Abed Tavancheh, barely out of the dungeons of the Islamic Republic, writing in an interview while he is in the city of Arak in Iran, and soon after he read that Washington DC-based Iranian warmongers are enticed by the events in Libya:


I want to live - and if I am to die for something, I wish to die voluntarily and form my own ideals, and I wish to emphasise that I can only decide for my own life, and not for 25 out every 1000 Iranians [an estimate of how many people will perish].I wish to know for what and for whom I die. Neither the US, nor NATO, nor indeed any other coalition with no matter how many flags on top of it, authorised by I could not care what organisation, has the right to impose on me as an Iranian living in Iran any "humanitarian intervention". I could not care any less if these bombs were guided by laser or by God Almighty Himself. I refuse to accept the risk of being among 25 in each 1,000 who shall die, and you sir [addressing a militant military interventionist heralding from NED] so long as the chance of your being among these 25 is zero - because you live in Washington DC and from each side of your location you are safely distanced from here by an ocean and a couple of continents - please keep your opinion to yourself about me and people like me who live in Iran, and kindly do not add any more fuel to the fire of foreign invasion. That is all.


Shedding skin
"Iranian political culture is molting."

The rise of these postmodern Fifth Columnists is actually a positive development for the future of democracy in Iran - for all the delusions of a false solidarity among the dissidents in and out of Iran is actually dissipating and clearer bifurcations are emerging. Illustrious figures identified with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Bush Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy are now championing a solid alliance with the Zionist-Neoconservative forces in the United States, even to the point of enticing them to attack Iran to liberate it for them.

We have (dare I dream) the solid foundation for the emergence of a new Left from the ashes of the Reform movement of the 1990s, from which a few progressive forces have been salvaged. The rest have either returned to their mysticism, or joined the Fifth Columnists, or dropped all their protestations and joined rank with the emerging Left. These divisions will not weaken the dissident voices. They will in fact strengthen the democratic future of the republic that will, willy-nilly, succeed this belligerent theocracy.  
Iranian political culture is molting. 

My only recommendation to active members of these Fifth Column brigade is to take a look at the fate of Kanan Makiya (aka Samir al-Khalil), who was equally, if not more adamant, in encouraging the US to invade Iraq to liberate it. Half a decade later, in 2007, his homeland in ruins, hundreds of thousands of his fellow Iraqis perished, Makiya was in agony acknowledging the horrors of his mistake when the New York Times had him reflect on his cheerleading the US-led invasion of Iraq. "In the buildup to the Iraq war," the Times reported, "Makiya, more than any single figure, made the case for invading because it was the right thing to do - to destroy an evil regime and rescue a people from their nightmare of terror and suffering".

Even back in 2007, when the full scale of the Iraqi carnage was yet to unfold, the New York Times had concluded: "Now, of course, those dreams are gone, carried away on a tide of blood. The catastrophe in Iraq has thoroughly undermined the idea of democratic change in the Middle East. It has undercut the notion ... that American military power can achieve humanitarian ends. And it has made Makiya and the others who justified the invasion look reckless and naïve." Others may, of course, use more accurate adjectives than "reckless and naïve". For the Iranian versions of Kanan Makiya I have generously opted, for now, for "postmodern Fifth Columnists".

Faring well 

Having said all of this, it would also be unfair and inaccurate to dismiss all those who have sign on to this "humanitarian intervention" business as heartless warmongers who do not care about their homeland. More than three decades of a terrorising and criminal theocracy with no regard for human decency has driven many Iranians to desperate measures. Thousands of Iranians have been cold-bloodedly murdered in the dungeons of the Islamic republic, hundreds of thousands have perished in a prolonged and wasteful war, millions have been forced to leave their homeland and endure the indignity of exile, and an entire nation is terrorised into submission to a vicious, corrupt, and subhuman tyranny.

Two years ago masses of millions of Iranians poured into their streets demanding their civil liberties - and they were met with vicious and wanton disregard for human decency. Millions of Iranians around the globe, proud of who and what they are, wish to go back to their homeland, join their families inside Iran and build a better future for their children - and yet this plague called "Islamic Republic" is cast upon that nation with wicked tenacity.

But precisely for these reasons, rushing into a military option code - named "humanitarian intervention", and over which these exiled Iranians have absolutely no control, is not the answer, because it will have catastrophic consequences in every conceivable way. Libya is Libya and Iran is Iran - these two countries have and will continue to struggle for their liberties in terms at once common to them both and yet rooted in two different immediate histories. No country is a model for another. 

But if war is not the answer - then what is? 

The answer is not hidden in the wooden box of any apothecary. The answer is in the emerging spirit of liberation now sweeping from one end of the globe to another, which in one way or another will also come to Iran.

In social and revolutionary uprisings, activists do not have the luxury of picking and choosing models, so they can opt for the Libyan as opposed to the Tunisian model. The logic of social movements are embedded in their own historic roots. An employee of NED, or WINEP, or the Bush Institute, or an obscure college professor in California is not in a position to pick and choose that model for a democratic uprising halfway around the globe. Not even people closest to the social uprisings, suffering in the dungeons of the Islamic Republic - not even Karrubi and Mousavi, who are on the record as having garnered millions of votes of Iranians, can decide and determine in what direction the Iranian democratic uprising will go.

That democratic uprising - rooted, real, enduring and determined to succeed - will find its own way. Our task is not to impose a method on it, but to discover and exacerbate its inner logic. The everlasting embarrassment (indeed shame) will remain for those who fail to listen and learn that logic and wish to impose their own desires, however noble or treacherous.

Neither the Islamic Republic nor any other tyrannical - or even democratic - state has the right to develop weapons of mass destruction, at the mercy of which our fragile globe lives in fear and trembling. But the current configuration of regional and global power has no moral authority whatsoever to tell the Islamic Republic not to develop nuclear arms. In one way or another the Islamic Republic will develop nuclear weapons capabilities - and there is very little that the apartheid Israeli garrison state sitting on hundreds of nuclear bombs and refusing even to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty can do about the matter. Whatever Israel and its US and European allies do will, in fact, expedite that eventuality. If they leave the Islamic Republic alone, it will get closer to that capability. If they attack it - and indications are that in physical and cyberspace warfare they have already done so - they will in fact push their project forward.   

This paradox can only be resolved by a resolution of the supreme hypocrisy of Israel and the US finger-pointing at the Islamic Republic about its nuclear program. The Islamic Republic and the Jewish State are now staring each other down like two thuggish cowboys - and the fate of one has become contingent on the other. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak fancies Israel "a villa in a jungle" (the racist implications of his favourite metaphor defies sanity). But from the vantage point of the natives of that "jungle", both the Jewish State and the Islamic Republic appear as two garrisons destined to dismantle each other - for good, for the benefit of Iranians and Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, Muslims and humanity at large.  

Whether or not that paradox is resolved, neither the Jewish State, the Islamic Republic, nor indeed the Christian empire presiding over them both can or will escape the force of history coming their way. We may call it Intifada in Palestine, Tent Revolt in Israel, the Green Movement in Iran, the Arab Spring in the Arab world, Indignados in Europe, or Occupy Wall Street in the US and around the globe, but against that force all hypocrisies and all paradoxes will sooner or later dissolve.

The natural habitat of ordinary people revolting against all forms of injustice and tyranny is a moral and not a military position. Those who encourage war by way of offering political justification for it have categorically abandoned that moral position. They have aid and abet acts of violence, at the receiving end of which live masses of millions of innocent and helpless human beings, over which they have no control, against which they have no protection - and yet beyond which they must imagine and achieve a better and more just world. 

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. Among his most recent books is Iran: A People Interrupted (2007).


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Spiritual Influxes of Vigilant Observance (awrâd al-istibsâr)

The following is my English translation from Henry Corbin's French translation of Suhrawardî's 'Descents and Sanctifications' (al-wâridât wa'l-taqdîsât), dubbed by Corbin 'The Book of Hours' (Le Livre d'Heures), in L'archange empourpré (Paris: 1976), pp. 483-4. Presently only one badly scanned ms. of the original Arabic of this work is in my possession. Two other mss. have been cited by Corbin, as well as Brockelman in GAL, as being held in Turkey.




1. [O! To] that God who hears the call of burning desire! How [It] discloses (kashf) the way to the interior illumination! By the approaching of the Malakût (angelic world) of sanctity whereby the word is upraised to the Persons of Light (ashkhâs al-daw’), inasmuch as They proclaim:
2. O God of all gods (yâ ilâha kulli ilâhîn), assemble the litany of the Light! Come to the aid of the people of Light (ahl al-Nûr)! Guide the light unto the Light!
3. With the First Being the principle movement originates. To this First Being is lead the final limit of time and repose. Close is the moment. The Signs have appeared. Herein gathered are in assembly the folk of Mount Sina’i, so reciting, let them say:
4. O God of the Separations (yâ ilâh al-fâriqât), assemble the litany of the Light! Come to the aid of the people of Light! Guide the light unto the Light!
5. The Lord is alone and without equal by the glare of It’s splendorous flashes of Glory (bi-sanâ’ al-majd). One and Single in the magnitude of Power. Exalted in the sublimity of Its Victorious force, dominating every Intelligence, every heart and every material body. Within each living being It epiphanizes [Itself]. In the proximity of Its Majesty are the heights of the highest altitudes and the abysses of the utmost depths, so let the Pure Ones (al-zakkîyât) proclaim :
6. O Master of the Supreme Symbol (sâhib al-mathal al-a’lâ), assemble the litany of the Light! Come to the aid of the People of Light! Guide the light unto the Light!
7. God purifes the upright while approaching them, approving the liturgy of the Light arising to sounds of the Sanctified Easts (quddâs al-ishrâq), for Its blessings are upon the cone of the flame of Light. It directs the celestial impulse upon the lamp of the sanctuary (qandîl al-mosallâ). It consecrates offerings and praiseworthy acts. It made of the herald of the Levantine Light the rider of the Orient (rakîb al-mashriq), for the  nearness of the Holy Ones, bestowing aid, launch the [divine] Order by proclaiming atop the crenels of the world of Glory:
8. O Principle of the Universe, terminal time limit of the movements of the suns which rise to their orients when they decline from their occidents (al-shâriqât al-ghâribât), assemble the litany of the Light! Come to the aid of the People of Light! Guide the light unto the Light!
9. God made the primal Light the mediator and sovereign. He projected upon him Its Light. It gave him the sovereignty over the direction of [the celestial] bodies. It made of him a lord reigning upon the napes of the necks of the beings in material bodies. It confirmed by him the mediation of the cosmic order, the perfector of life, the cause of the seasons, the nights and days, and to whom the sanctified (hieratic) souls (muqadassât al-nufûs) invoke with fervor, whilst addressing themselves to It:
10. O You, the Singular Person [in authority] over the Lights (yâ ayyuhâ al-shakhs al-anwâr). You Who eternally turn Your face towards Your Father! Call upon the Giver of Intelligence (wâhib al-‘aql) and Life! Say: Assemble the litany of the Light! Come to the aid of the People of Light! Guide the light unto the Light!
11. The Good (the Elect) beseech the highest Persons, the most elevated of the beings of Light. The human assembly beseech the celestial Souls, while all together beseech the archangelic Active-Intellects (al-‘uqâl al-fa’’âla); this, whilst our Principle encircles their totality. And this is the prayer of all the levels of the hierarchy of beings, namely, the answer to the Call:
12. O Dispenser of the Light and the beneficial influx! Come to the aid of the People of Light! Guide the light unto the Light.

Monday, 3 October 2011

A tale about the Unity of Being (wahdat al-wujud)


 

When colorlessness became the captive of color
A Moses went to war with Jesus - Rumi

Once upon a time a wandering dervish came upon a grove owned by an elderly, retired man in the twilight of his years. The elderly man had spent years tending to his garden with much love and care, growing in it all kinds of sumptuous fruits and vegetables. Recently having been graced with a realization of the Unity of Being (wahdat al-wujud), the dervish thought to himself, "I am hungry, and there is no blame if I jump over this man's fence and help myself to the fruits of his garden since all is God!"


So the dervish proceeded to jump over the old man’s fence and, without asking his permission, began to greedily help himself to the fruits and vegetables of the old man's garden.


After a while the old man saw what the dervish was doing and so began to yell at him from across the way: "hey you, what are you doing? Why are you eating from the fruits of my garden without my permission?" The dervish responded, "this is God's garden, these are God's fruits and I am God eating God!" The old man angrily retorted, "is that right?" The dervish imperiously responded, "yes, that's right!"


So the old man proceeded over to the other side of his house to fetch his big, heavy walking stick. He returned straight back over to the dervish and began to now beat him mercilessly! The dervish cried, "what is wrong with you, old man? Why are you beating me like this?" The old man responded, "well, this is God's garden, these are God's fruits and I am God beating God!"

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Crimson Intellect ('aql-i-sorkh) of Suhrawardi



In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful! 

Glory be to the Sovereign who rules over the two worlds with absolute dominion; for the existence of all that has been has been through His Being; the present existence of all that now exists is through His Being, and the future existence of all that shall exist will exist through His Being. He is the First, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden; and He is seeing of all things. And salutations and blessings be upon His divine envoys, especially to Muhammad, the Chosen, through whom the seal was affixed to prophecy, and upon his Companions and to the Knowers of Religion, may divine favour rest upon them all!

One of my dear friends one day asked me the following question: "Do birds understand each other's language?" 
- "Certainly," I answered, "they do."
- My friend replied: "How do you know this?"
- "It so happens that in the beginning when He who is the Maker in the real sense wanted to manifest my being that not yet was, He created me in the form of a falcon. However, in the land where I was there were also other falcons; we talked to one another, we listened to the different words and we understood each other."
- "Very good," said my friend, "but how have things gotten the way they are now?"
- Well, this is how: "one day the hunters, Decree and Destiny, spread out the fillet of Predestination; they hid the grain of attraction in it as a bait and in this way successfully managed to take me a prisoner. They kidnapped me from the homeland that had been my nest and took me away to a faraway country. My eyelids were sewn together and they fettered me with four different kinds of chains; finally, ten wardens were appointed to guard over me: five faced me and had their backs to the outside; five others had their back to me and faced the outside. The five who were facing me kept me so tightly in a world of confusion that I forgot everything: my own nest, the faraway homeland and everything that I had known over there. I now imagine that I have always been just like I am now. 
            When some time had passed this way, my eyes reopened a little bit, and to the degree that they could see again, I began to look around. I began to see the things  that I had not seen for so very long and I admired them greatly. Gradually every day my eyes opened a little more and I looked at more things so I fell over with surprise. Finally my eyes reopened completely; the world showed itself to me just the way it was. I looked at the chains that tied me down; I saw that I was a prisoner of the ten wardens. I said to myself: "Apparently I will never be extricated from these four fetters or from these jailers so that my wings can open and I can fly again, free and unhindered from all bonds." 
            More time passed. Suddenly, one day I noticed that my jailers had relaxed their attention. "I could not have found a better moment," I thought to myself. Secretly I slipped away, and as well as I could I hobbled in my chains until I ended up on the desert road. There, in the desert, I saw someone coming my way. I walked to meet this person. I stopped and greeted him. With grace and consideration, the person returned my greeting. Observing a crimson reflection in his complexion, I thought I had met an adolescent. 
- "Young man," I said, "where are you going?"
- Child! Came the reply, "You are wrong in calling me that! I myself am the eldest of the Creator's children, and you call me 'young man'?"
- "But in that case, why aren't you like someone who is old?"
- "I really am one of the most ancient ones, a Sage whose essence is Light. The same person who made you a prisoner of the fillet, who put those chains around you and made those jailers guard you, also threw me into the pit of darkness a long time ago, that is the reason you see that crimson color around me. Otherwise I am completely white and luminous. Like anything white whose whiteness comes from solidarity with the Light, when it gets mixed with the night it appears sort of reddish. Watch at twilight and at dawn, both are white because they are connected with the light of the sun. However, twilight and dawn are a moment between the two: one side is towards day which is white and the other is towards night which is black, hence the purple of the dawn in the morning and of the twilight in the evening. Watch the astral mass of the moon when it rises. Although its light is a light borrowed, it is truly clothed in light, but one of its faces is turned towards day while the other is turned towards night. So the moon appears crimson. A simple lamp appears to have the same property; below, the flame is white, higher up it turns towards dark smoke; in between it appears reddish. Many other analogies or similarities can be given as an example of this rule"
- "O Sage, then where do you come from?" I asked this time.
- "I come from beyond Mount Qâf. That is where my home is. Your nest was there also. Alas! You have forgotten it!"
- "But what are you doing here?"
- "I am a perpetual pilgrim. Without letting up, I travel around the world and marvel at all its wonders."
- "What sort of wonders have you seen in the world?"
- "I have seen seven wonders: the first one is Mount Qâf, our home, yours and mine. The second is the Jewel that illumines the Night. The third is the tree Tûbâ. Fourth are the twelve workshops. Fifth is David's coat of mail. Sixth is the Sword. Seventh is the Source of Life."
- "I beg you to tell me the history of all that."
- "Alright, first there is Mount Qâf. It stands on top of the world that it completely surrounds; in fact, all together it is made up of twelve mountains. That is where you will go when you are freed from your chains, because that is where you were taken from and every being ultimately returns to the form it had initially."
- "What road do I take to get there?" I asked.
- "The road is indeed very difficult. You first see two mountains that already are part of Mount Qâf. The one has a very cold climate and the other is very hot. The heat and the cold of those places knows no limits."
- "Isn't that easy? I will go across the mountain with the hot climate in the winter and will travel over the mountain with the cold climate when it is summer."
- "Unfortunately, you are wrong. There isn't any season that the weather on those mountains gets any better."
- "How far is it to those mountains? I asked."
- "No matter how long and how far you travel, you will keep getting back to the place from where you left. It's like a compass where one point is fixed at the center and the other is on its periphery: as long as it keeps turning it always keeps getting back to where it started." 
- "Maybe it is possible to drill a tunnel through those mountains and then travel through the hole?"
- "Actually, it is impossible to drill a tunnel through them. On the other hand, those who have the aptitude can cross them in a single instant without having to dig at all. This is about a power that is similar to the one balsam has. If you hold the palm of your hand up to the sun long enough for it to become hot and if you then pour balsam drop by drop into your palm, the balsam passes through to the backside of your hand thanks to a natural power that it has. So also with you: if you realize the natural power in yourself to cross those mountains, then in an instant you will have crossed them."
- "How can you realize this power in yourself?"
- "I will give you a hint, if you are capable of catching it.
- "When I have crossed those first two mountains, is it then not easy to cross the others?"
- "Easy, certainly, but on condition that you understand. Some people remain forever captive of those two mountains. Others cross to the third and stay there. Still others get to the fourth, to the fifth and so on, to the twelfth. The smarter the bird, the further it will fly."
- "Now that you have explained Mount Qâf to me, I said, I beg you to tell me the history of the Jewel that illumines the Night."
- "The Jewel that illumines the night also exists on Mount Qâf; more precisely, it is located on the third mountain and the dark night becomes resplendent because of it. Nevertheless, it does not stay in the same state without any changes. Its light comes from the Tûbâ tree. Every time that it finds itself "in opposition" to the Tûbâ tree, relative to the place where you are, the Jewel appears entirely luminous, like a resplendent globe. When it is no longer opposite, but in a place closer to the Tûbâ tree, part of its luminous disk is hidden relative to you, while the rest continues to shine. The closer it gets to the tree Tûbâ tree, the more the dark part gains on the luminous part, all the while, mind you, relative to the place where you are, because in relation to the tree Tûbâ one hemisphere of the Jewel stays luminous. When it is the closest to the Tûbâ tree, it appears in relation to you as having become completely dark, while on the side of the Tûbâ tree it is completely light. Inversely, when it gets further away from the Tûbâ tree, it begins to illuminate in relation to you (that is, as seen from your side); the further it gets away from the Tûbâ tree, the stronger its light gets relative to you. The light itself never increases; the mass of the Jewel keeps the excess light for itself and the dark zone gets equally smaller. This goes on until the opposition of the tree Tûbâ happens again (that is, the greatest distance); then the mass of the Jewel keeps the light completely for itself.”  

The Jewel that illumines the Night

It's analogy

An analogy will make you see this. Perforate a little ball completely along its diameter and draw a line over the marks. Then fill a bowl with water and put the little ball on the surface of the bowl so that half of it is in the water. Let us suppose that in ten turns at a given moment the water has covered every part of the little ball (while it revolves around itself). If someone has observed this, looking from under the bowl, then they will always see one half of the ball plunged into water. Now if the observer is then placed just below the middle of the bowl and keeps looking at it in a slanted direction in relation to this vertical middle, then the entire half of the ball in the water can no longer be seen because to the degree that the direction of one's view differs from the middle, one ceases to see that part of the ball that is no longer in opposition to this vantage point. On the contrary, while looking this way, one will see part of the ball out of the water. The more obliquely one raises one's view towards the water level in the bowl, the smaller will be the part of the ball dipped into the water and the more one will see it out of the water. When one places oneself in order to see exactly level with the water in the bowl, one hemisphere will be seen in the water and the other out of it. Then if one's view is slanted more and more above the water level, more of one part of the ball will be seen, until one's view passes vertically through the middle of the bowl and one sees the ball in its entirety, but also completely out of the water. Someone will perhaps object that while looking from below the bowl, they see neither the water nor the little ball. We answer that of course they can be seen, on condition that the bowl is made out of glass or some other transparent material. Now when we deal with the bowl and the little ball of our example, it is the observer who has moved around the bowl in order to look at them. However, when we are dealing with the Jewel that illumines the Night and the Tûbâ tree, it is they themselves that rotate around a stationary observer."
- "Then what is the Tûbâ tree?" I then asked the Sage.
- "The Tûbâ tree is an immense tree in Paradise. Everyone is familiar with this tree every time they walk there. In the very heart of the twelve mountains that I spoke of there is a certain mountain. On that mountain stands the Tûbâ tree.
- "Does it bear fruit?"
- "All the fruit you see in the world is from this tree; the fruit you see before you all belongs to it. If the Tree did not exist there would be no fruit and no trees, no flowers or plants around you!"
- "Fruit, trees and flowers, what relation do they all have to this tree?"
- "Sîmurgh has her nest in the top of the Tûbâ. At sunrise she leaves her nest and spreads her wings over the earth. It is from the influence of those wings that fruit appears on trees and that plants germinate in the earth."
- "I have heard it said that it was Sîmurgh who raised Zâl and that it was with Sîmurgh's help that Rostam killed Esfandyâr."
- "Yes, that's true."
- "How did that happen?"
- When Zâl made his entrance into existence from his mother's womb, his hair and face where completely white. Sâm, his father, ordered that he be thrown out into the desert. His mother was just as profoundly disturbed at having brought him into the world. Seeing her son with such repulsive features, she consented to the order. So Zâl was abandoned into the wilderness. It was then winter then and cold. No one imagined that the child would survive there. A few days passed; his mother lost her resentment and felt pity for the child. "I will go into the wilderness", she said to herself, "I must see what has happened to my child". After arriving in the wilderness she found him: the child was still alive, Sîmurgh had taken it under her wings. When mother and child saw each other, Zâl smiled at her and the mother took him to her breast and nursed him. She wanted to take him with her, but then said to herself: "No, because they won't understand how he survived these days, I won't take him back to the house." She then abandoned little Zâl in the same place, under Sîmurgh's wings and hid herself in the vicinity. When night fell and Sîmurgh left the desert, a gazelle approached Zâl's crib and placed its breast on the child's lips. After the child was finished with her milk, the gazelle rocked it to sleep in its crib so Zâl would be safe from all troubles. Then the mother got up, moved the gazelle away from the crib and took the child home."
- "What secret is hidden there?" I asked the Sage.
- "I myself have asked Sîmurgh about this and this is what she said": "Zâl came into the terrestrial world under the attention of Tûbâ. We did not allow him to perish. We abandoned the fawn to the power of the hunters and put our pity into the heart of the gazelle, its mother, so that she took pity on him and gave him her milk. During the day I myself took him under my wings."
- "And the case of Rostam and Esfandyâr"?
- "This is what happened. Rostam did not have enough strength to defeat Esfandyâr and collapsed from fatigue. His father, Zâl, poured out supplications before Sîmurgh. However, Simûrgh naturally had the power that when someone held a mirror directly in front of her, or some other thing like a mirror, every eye that looked into that mirror would be blinded. Zâl made a breastplate of iron with a perfectly polished surface and put that on Rostam. Likewise he put a perfectly polished helmet on Rostam's head and hung pieces of mirror from his horse. Then he directed Rostam to place himself directly in front of Sîmurgh. Esfandyâr inevitably had to come at Rostam. The moment he came close, Sîmurgh's rays that fell on the breastplate and the mirrors reflected back into Esfandyâr's eyes; he became dazed and couldn't see anything anymore. He imagined and believed that he was wounded in the eyes because he caught a glance of two sharp points. He fell from his horse and perished at the hands of Rostam. Consider that the two points from the arrow made out of a branch of the gäz tree of which the recitals speak, are Sîmurgh's two wings."
- "Do you mean to say," I asked the Sage, "that in the entire universe there has been only one Sîmurgh?"
- "No, those who don't know, erroneously think so. Unless a Sîmurgh continuously descends down to earth from the tree Tûbâ while the one that went before her returns, that is, unless a new Sîmurgh continually comes, nothing of what is here can stay alive. Like what comes to the earth, so also a Sîmurgh goes forth from the Tûbâ tree out to the twelve workshops."
- "O Sage! I cried out, What are these twelve workshops?"
- "In the first place, realize that when our King wanted to organize his Kingdom, he organized our country first and then he put us to work. He instituted twelve workshops and in each workshop he put some apprentices. Then he also put the students to work so that below the twelve workshops a new workshop appeared and our King put a Master (ustâd) in there. This Master he appointed to his own work so that under this first workshop again another workshop appeared. In turn he put a second Master to work there so that under the second workshop yet another workshop appeared, entrusted to a third Master, and so on, until there were seven workshops and a Master especially appointed over each one. Then to each of the apprentices who were divided over twelve houses he gave a robe of honor. He also gave a robe of honor to the first Master and entrusted him two of the twelve higher workshops. To the second Master he also gave a robe of honor and of those twelve workshops equally entrusted him with two of them. Similarly with the third Master. To the fourth master he gave a robe that was the most beautiful of all; he did not entrust any of the twelve workshops to him but ordained him to exercise care over all twelve. To the fifth and sixth Masters he gave gifts just like he had done to the second and third Masters. When the turn came of the seventh Master only one workshop remained. This was given to him, but he was not given a robe of honor. The seventh Master then complained: "Every Master has two workshops and I have only one! Everyone has been given a robe of honor and I have been given none!" He was told that under his workshop two workshops would be built that he would be given the greatest control over. Under all of those workshops fields were laid out to be sown and their care was equally given to the seventh Master. Besides this, it was determined that a lesser robe would continually be made from the beautiful robe of the third Master and that in this way at every moment the robe of one would also be the robe of the other, like I explained about Sîmurgh."
- "O Sage," I insisted, "what is woven in these workshops?"
- "Embroidery, but they also weave things that no one has ever thought of weaving. David's coat of mail is also woven there."
- "O Sage, what is David's coat of mail?"
- "That coat of mail is made up of the various ties that are woven around you."
- "Why is it made?"  
The Two-pointed Arrow

- "In each of the four triads that make up the twelve higher workshops one link is made; from the work in these twelve workshops the result is therefore four links. But it does not end there. These four links are given to the seventh Master because he handles each of them. When they are placed under his control the seventh Master sends them to the field that he sows and there they remain for a certain amount of time in a state of rest. After that the four links are connected with each other and they form a tight fabric. Then they take a falcon like you prisoner and throw that coat of mail on it so that it is completely sown up."
- "How many links are there in each coat of mail?" I asked.
- "If you could count the drops of water in lake Omân then you could also count how many links there are in each coat of mail."
- "But is there a way to get rid of it?"
- "Through the Indian Sword."
- "In our country there is an executioner; this Sword is in his hands. It has become a rule that when a coat of mail has rendered the services that it must provide for a certain time and its time is over that this executioner strikes it with his Sword. That blow is so hard that all the links break and scatter."
- "For someone wearing that coat of mail are there differences in the way they receive that blow?"
- "Of course there are differences. For some the shock is so bad that had they lived a century and had they passed their entire life in meditation on the nature of the most intolerable suffering and what the greatest suffering is that can be imagined, they could still not imagine the violence of the blow that this Sword inflicts. One the other hand, for others the blow is much more easily received."
- "O Sage, I beg of you, what do I have to do so this suffering is made easy for me?"
- "Find the Spring of Life. From this Spring streams of water run down over your head until this coat of mail (instead of hemming you in tightly) becomes a simple garment that hangs around you with ease. This way you are invulnerable to the blow from this Sword. It is as if this Water makes the coat of mail supple, and when it is completely loosened up, the shock from the Sword is no longer felt."
- "O Sage, where is this Spring of Life?"
- "In the Darkness. If you want to take part in the Quest for this Spring, look for the same sandals that Khezr wears and progress on the road of confident abandonment, till you arrive in the region of the Shadows."
- "In what direction is that road?"
- "In whatever direction you go, if you are a real traveller then you will finish the journey."
- "But what does the region of the Shadows mean?"
- "It is the darkness of one's awareness. Because you are in darkness yourself. You simply have no awareness. When they who take this road see themselves as being in darkness then they have understood that they are here and now in the night and that they have never yet reached the clarity of the light of day. That is the very first step of a real traveller. It is only possible to raise yourself up if you start there. If someone therefore reaches that station then it is possible to go on from there. The seeker for the Spring of Life passes through all sorts of stupors and distresses. However, if they are worthy to find the Spring then finally after the darkness they will contemplate the light. They must not take flight before this light because it is a splendor that descends from the high Heavens upon this Spring of Life. When they have finished the journey and bathed in the Spring of Life then they are invulnerable to the blow by the Sword." As these verses have it:


Let yourself be bruised by the Sword of Love
And find eternity,
Because the Sword of the
 Angel of Death,
Is never a sign that you are among the revived --
Sanâ'î
 
Those who bathe themselves in this Spring will never be sullied. Those who have found the meaning of True Reality have arrived at the Spring. When they emerge from the Spring they have attained to that which makes them like the drop of balsam that you pour into the hollow of your hand after holding it up to the sun and which then penetrates to the back of your hand. If you are Khezr, then you too can cross Mount Qâf."
...  When I told these things to my dear friend who had asked me about them, he cried out: "You really are a falcon who has been captured into the fillet and who now gives chase to the game. Well, catch me then! To the cords of the hunter's saddle I will not be a bad prey." 

Yes, I am the falcon who the hunters of the world
are in need of at every moment.
My game are gazelles with dark eyes,
Because Wisdom is like tears that  pour through their eyelids.
Before me the literal meaning of words flee
Near me one knows how to catch the hidden meaning.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Hermetic & Avicennan "Recital of Salman and Absal"

From Corbin Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, pp. 210-215; 224-6.


THE HERMETIC RECITAL

In ancient times, before the deluge of Fire, there was a king named Hermanos son of Heraql. He held the Byzantine Empire to the shore of the sea, including the country of Greece and the land of Egypt. It was he who had caused the building of those immense theurgic constructions called the pyramids, against which neither the elements nor the centuries in their thousands have been able to prevail. This king possessed profound knowledge and extensive power; he was versed in the influences of the stars, knew natural properties, and practiced theurgic operations. Among his intimates was a Sage, Aqliqulas the divine, by whom he had been initiated into all the secret sciences. For a whole cycle this divine man had devoted himself to spiritual practices in a cave called the Sarapeion; for nourishment he ate only a few herbs every forty days, and his life reached the length of three cycles.

To this Sage the king one day complained that he had no child. The reason was that Hermanos had no inclination for women and could not prevail upon himself to approach them. As he continued to refuse to do so, despite the Sage's advice, the Sage realized that only one solution remained: to determine a suitable "ascendant" by astrological observation, procure a mandragora, and put a little of the king's semen in it, the Sage then undertaking to treat the mixture in an environment suitable for the operation, until it should be ready to receive a soul to govern it and become a complete human being. The proposal was carried out; the child born of this alchemical operation was named Salaman.

A nurse had of course to be provided for him. A young woman of great beauty, aged eighteen years, was found; her name was Absal; she set about caring for the child. Hermanos now asked the Sage what he could do to show his gratitude; the Sage advised him to undertake the construction of a gigantic edifice that neither Water nor Fire could destroy. For the Sage foresaw the revolt of the elements: the edifice was to be of seven stories; it would have a secret door to be known only to the Sages, for whom it would be a secure refuge; as for the rest of mankind, they might as well perish in the cataclysm. To these precautionary measures the king responded by proposing the construction of two edifices: one for the Sage and another that would serve at once to shelter their treasures, their sciences, and their bodies after death. Thus the two pyramids were built.

As for the child Salaman, when he had grown the king wanted to take him from Absal, but the boy was in despair, so great was his attachment to her. So the king left them together until the boy should have grown older. Thus Salaman's affection for Absal changed into love, and a love so passionate that he was entirely taken up with her and frequently neglected the king's service. The king summoned his son and addressed him in the terms usual in such cases. Their apparent brutality is, however, at once offset by the prospect that opens before a Hermetic Sage, and before him alone: the human being must seek to draw constantly to the world of the higher Light, which outshines every other light and is his true abode, whereas the abode of sensible things represents a condition lower than all others. An intermediate degree is attained when man becomes the contemplator of the "Lights of Victory," but the higher degree is to attain to knowledge of the ideal realities (haqa'iq) of all beings. Hence Salaman must abandon Absal: he has no need of her, she cannot help him toward this sublime goal. Let him act as a man, strong in his isolation, until Hermanos finds him a bride, a maiden of the celestial world who will be united to him for the eternity of eternities, and let him thus make himself pleasing to the Lord of the worlds.

It goes without saying that Salaman was not convinced by these most sage exhortations. He hastened to repeat the entire conversation to Absal, who advised him in her turn: "Pay no heed to that man's words. He would deprive you of present joys for the sake of promises of which the greater part are vain. I am a woman who answers to all that delights your soul. If you are an intelligent and determined man, go and reveal our secret to the king: you are not one who can abandon me, nor I one to abandon you." It would no doubt be better not to announce this decision in person. So Salaman confided it to the vizier, who undertook to transmit it. The situation now seemed hopeless; the king gave way to violent grief. His remonstrances remained as unconvincing as before, even when the idea of a compromise was suggested: let Salaman divide histime into two equal parts, one in which to profit from the teaching of the Sages, the other to be given to Absal. And so it was decided. Unfortunately, when Salaman, after having devoted all the stipulated time to the study of the exalted sciences necessary to his education, found that he must still serve the king, he had only one idea—to return to Absal and play with her. The king could not but admit that he was again defeated. He consulted his Sages: would not the only way to get rid of Absal be to have her killed? But the vizier protested firmly: let none make bold to destroy what he cannot himself raise up. If the king put this project into effect, it was to be feared that the very foundations of his dwelling would be overthrown and that the elements brought together to constitute his nature would dissolve. And this would not open the way for him to the choir of the Kerubim (in other words, the therapy of the soul can have as its goal not the destruction but only the sublimation of the sensible nature). The "child" must little by little discover for himself what it was incumbent upon him to do.

A kindly informer reported this conversation to Salaman, who immediately conveyed the news to Absal. Together they considered how best to frustrate the king's plans; finally, they resolved to flee beyond the Western Ocean. But the king received information of what they were doing; for he possessed two golden reeds, decorated with thaumaturgic designs and pierced with seven holes corresponding to the seven climes. By blowing on one of these holes, after placing on it a pinch of ashes, which then broke into flame, one was informed of what was taking place in the corresponding clime. Thus Hermanos learned where Salaman and Absal had hidden; he learned too that they were suffering all the miseries of exile (ghurba); he was touched, and ordered that they receive some little help. But since Salaman persisted in his voluntary exile, Hermanos' wrath presently turned upon the spiritual entities (ruhaniyat) of their passion, and he resolved to destroy these. For the two lovers, this was the most intolerable suffering and the most sinister torture: they gazed at each other, felt ardent desire, but could not unite. Salaman understood that what had befallen them was also caused by his father's anger; so he rose and went to the king to obtain remission. In a last effort, the king tried to make his son understand that he could not assume the throne and at the same time remain Absal's companion, for either kingship or Absal would claim him entirely. While he clung to the throne with one hand, Absal would be like a fetter fastened to his feet, preventing him from attaining the throne of the celestial spheres. And to confirm his words by a convincing experience, he had the two lovers suspended in this awkward position for a whole day. At nightfall they were set free.


THE AVICENNAN RECITAL

Salaman and Absal were half brothers on the mother's side. Absal was the younger; he had been brought up in his brother's presence, and the more he grew, the more marked his beauty and intelligence became. He was well instructed in letters and the sciences, he was chaste and brave. So it came about that Salaman's wife fell passionately in love with him. She said to Salaman: "Bid him frequent your family, so that your children may learn from his example." And Salaman asked him to do so, but Absal absolutely refused to associate with women. Then Salaman said: "For you, my wife holds the rank of a mother." So Absal came to his brother's house.

The young woman showered him with attentions, and after a time privately told him of her passion for him. Absal showed distress, and she realized that he would not yield to her. Then she said to Salaman: "Marry your brother to my sister." Salaman gave him her sister to wife. But meanwhile Salaman's wife said to her sister: "I did not marry you to Absal in order that he should belong to you alone, to my injury; I intend to share him with you." Finally, she said to Absal: "My sister is a maiden of great modesty. Do not go to her during the day, and do not speak to her until after she has become accustomed to you." On the wedding night, Salaman's wife slipped into her sister's bed, and Absal came in to her. Then she could no longer contain herself, and hastened to press her breast against Absal's. Absal became suspicious, and said to himself: "Modest maidens do not behave in this fashion." At that moment the heavens became covered by dense clouds. A flash of lightning shot through them, its brilliant light disclosing the woman's face. Then Absal pushed her violently away, left the room, and resolved to flee.

He said to Salaman: "I wish to conquer all countries for you, for I have the strength to do it." He took a troop with him, waged war on several peoples, and, without incurring a reproach, conquered countries for his brother on land and sea, in East and West. Long before Alexander, he was master of the earth's entire surface. When he returned to his country, thinking that the woman had forgotten him, she relapsed into her old passion and tried to embrace him; but he refused and repulsed her.

An enemy having appeared, Salaman sent Absal and his troops to meet him. Then Salaman's wife distributed great sums to the leaders of the army so that they would abandon Absal on the battlefield. And so they did. The enemies were victorious over him; after wounding him, they left him lying in his blood, believing him dead. But a wild beast that was nursing young came to him and gave him milk from her teats. Thus he was fed until he was perfectly recovered and healed. Thereupon he sought out Salaman, whose enemies were then besieging and humiliating him, while he bewailed his brother's disappearance. Absal found him, took the army with its stores, and once again attacked his enemies; he routed them, took the greater part of them prisoners, and made his brother king.

Then Salaman's wife came to terms with a cook and a majordomo: she gave each of them a large sum, so that they served Absal a poisoned drink, and he died. He was a faithful friend, a being great in lineage and in desert, in knowledge and in act. His brother was in great grief over his death. He renounced the kingship and conferred it on one of his allies. Then he went into seclusion in secret conversations with his Lord. The Lord revealed to him the truth of what had taken place. Salaman made his wife, the cook, and the major-domo drink the poison that they had given Absal to drink, and they all three died.