Tuesday, May 01, 2007

understanding relationship between Sufism and poetry

Dana Wilde in a draft fashion has outlined ideas toward a basic understanding of the relationship between Sufism and poetry, with an exposition of basic ideas about what poetry is and does, and might do. i quote only critical areas.

Poetry & Sufism: A Few Generalities: It's not surprising that Sufis place so much emphasis on music and especially poetry in their teachings and their understanding of the Way to reunion with the Divine. The general Sufi sense of what reality consists in is inherently poetic; it seems not only to parallel the cosmos that a poetic imagination, in the most general terms, conceives, but really seems to embody that version of reality.

All poetry is inherently mystical. In the first and most basic way, its primary aim is to communicate at nonrational levels. Metaphors exist to convey, or evoke, or create sensibilities that cannot be conveyed or created using direct terms. For our purposes, this means metaphors evoke "feelings" in the range of emotions, but also sensibilities, in the range of intuitions, and of moral and spiritual senses of meaning which are very difficult or impossible to express directly.

Sufi teaching addresses the inner human being. One aspect of the inner human being is the rational mind, and so in Sufism we find complex statements concerning metaphysics and cosmology, and we find certain philosophical explanations and analyses. The expressed aim of Sufi teaching is to help the individual align him or herself with the Divine, to "perfect" himself - which means, to purify his inner self (we can refer to terms like "nafs" -- the "animal soul" -- at this point) so it is worthy of "the beloved," or indeed simply capable of being there, so to speak.

There is a sentence in Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching which seems deeply Sufic to me; Wilhelm interprets: "All that is visible must grow beyond itself into the realm of the invisible." In Sufism and most of the mystical tradition, there is a sense that every individual is in fact perpetually in touch with the Divine, and his or her task is to find that spark or element of the Divine, which (in many forms of mystic expression) is to say, to find the true self, the self that is the Divine as opposed to the false, or worldly, or detached and apparently isolated self. In all mystical traditions, there is said to be a "way" to do this; there is a path that can be followed back to our origin, a way from the visible to the realm of the invisible.

Bewilderment and Divine Insanity: Poetry is an instrument of awakening and instruction. It is a way of opening the mind to the divine reality, a way of helping people to grow out of the visible into the realm of the invisible.

... poetry and music are used to open the inner self to its own reality, and to its relation to the Divine. When I noted above that poetry and music can be "hypnotic," I meant in a general way that poetry and music can create an "altered state of consciousness" (to use a phrase current a few decades ago) and that some form of altered consciousness is needed to awaken an individual to the reality of who he or she "really" is and what that self consists in. This awakening and subsequent state of consciousness looks to the everyday world like insanity, and to the experiencer it is sometimes represented in Sufi poetry as a delicious bewilderment - seemingly the antithesis of Platonic, Christian or Islamic temperance.

Now paradoxically, this sense is not peculiar to Sufism, but is found in other mystical literature - the prime example being Socrates himself, perhaps, who in the Allegory of the Cave describes the mystic climbing out of the cave into enlightenment, and then upon returning is thought to be insane by the cave dwellers because he tells them the shadows on the wall are unreal and urges the dwellers to unshackle themselves. The enlightened man is seen as insane.

Metaphors for Reality: The Sufi metaphor of intoxication as a spiritual state is partly figurative but partly literal. Intoxication is a metaphor for madness, and madness is a metaphor for the spirit's condition, or transformation, or unfolding into reality, in the presence of the Divine. But amazingly, where poetry and music are involved, intoxication is not only a poetic figure, but is also a literal condition of the body as well as the mind. Poetry's music and imagery affect the body and the mind - the exterior and interior - alike, as if they were the same thing.

This is exactly what Sufism, and indeed all the mystical traditions (or all that are not strictly gnostic, let's say), seek to reveal: that the cosmos is a unified whole, one, or One. The music of poetry and the images and metaphors of poetry intoxicate the body and mind - together they change the state of outer and inner awareness of the hearer. Poetry affects the whole human being. It's not surprising that Sufis place so much emphasis on music and poetry in their Way to reunion with the Divine.

excerpts only from Dana Wilde's article titled, On Sufism and Poetry. you can read the full here. its well thought and well written.

:: credit :: Reference: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has resourceful Sufi literature and articles.Visit the The Sufi Literature Archive.

:: Related Posts:
+ Understanding Sufi Poetry - speed links
+ Sufi Poetry Carnival
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