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
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
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."