Cyrus Bina and Mo Vaziri

Spiritual experience is a modest woman,
Who looks lovingly at only one man."



Today, there is a ubiquitous resurgence in the assessment and recognition of the philosophy and poetry of Maolana Jalleddin Mohammed Moulavi, known as Rumi, in the West. In a more fundamental sense, there is also an enduring experience on the part of the West, particularly in the contemporary Anglo-American philosophical circles, in the direction of non-positivistic and dialectical discourse that underpins the very basic questions surrounding the meaning of life, history, and human existence. Thus, aside from the prevalent commercialization of Sufism within the pop culture (e.g., within a fairly large spectrum from Madonna, the "material girl" who turned spiritual, to Deepak Chopra, a self-proclaimed spiritual guide), the global reach of Western philosophy itself
plays a crucial role for the unprecedented notoriety of Rumi in the West. At the same time, given the omnipresent forces of globalization, the heightened level of cultural exchanges in the world--particularly since the last three decades of the twentieth century--is responsible for effective introduction, recognition, and appreciation of
Eastern and Middle-Eastern philosophies, in general, and Rumi's mystical tradition, in particular.

Maolana was born in September 30, 1207 in "the small town of Wakhsh north of Oxus" in the vicinity of the city of Balkh, in greater Khorsn, then a part of greater Iran (now in the vicinity of Mazar-e Sharif, Afghnestn). His family left Balkh in either 1218 or 1219, before the city had been reduced to ruins and many of its inhabitants
slaughtered by the invading Mongol hordes under Genghiz Khn. He resided in city of Konya (Ghounnieh) in central Anatolia, then a part of the Eastern Roman Empire (now Turkey), for nearly all his adult life, from sometime after 1226 until his death on December 17, 1273. Konya was a center of learning during Maolana's time, being at the crossroad of the East and the West, only a short distance from Damascus--one of the flourishing intellectual capitals of the world at the time. As the records show, Maolana had a fortune of receiving many learned visitors and thus having a lifetime of scholarly encounters at this time (see Schimmel 1978, pp. 1-37). It is reported that in Rumi's funeral peoples of all creed and religious convictions were dutifully present and accordingly treated him dearly and respectfully as one of their own. He was buried in Konya alongside his father and later on joined by more than fifty or so of his emigrating relatives, all who escaped the menacing threat of invading Mongol armies.

The purpose of this essay is to focus on the dialectic of divine love (eshgh) in Maoalna's discourse. Our focal point is the question of Maoalna's methodology. It is neither our intent to treat the larger question of theosophy and the theological place of Maoalna within the Islamic tradition nor, for that matter, to contend with his lineage and his subsequent influence on the Sufi way of life. Likewise, our task here has nothing to do with the examination of Maoalna's success or failure in producing systematic texts and consistent poetic style both in Mathnavi (1256-1258, 1263-1273) and Divn-e Shams (1244-?). Rather, we are simply to reveal Mouln's successful utilization of dialectic in his discourse long before Hegel's systematic studies in Phenomenology (1807) and Logic (in, two volumes, 1812-1816).

There exist a vast literature as well as a long-standing tradition in dialectical thinking, spanning from Herclitus (c. 500 B.C., a noble Ionian thinker), Socrates, and Plato--to name a few--in the ancient world, through the Middle-Ages rediscoveries of ancient texts by the Islamic scholars, which were conducive to flourishing European enlightenment before being appropriated and extended by philosophers, such as Spinoza
and Hegel. However, given the resurgence of the eastern mystical philosophy, Logic (in, two volumes, 1812-1816).Maolana's dialectic in connection with the discourse of divine love deserves due attention. To be sure, Rumi is an idealist thinker. He strives to explain the unity of Universe though the dialectic of here-and-the-now and its annihilation in the infinitude, timeless, and omnipresent bosom of Beloved (i.e., God).In his system of thought--if one prefers to call it a system--the finitude of present is a moment within the timeless infinitude, which has no beginning and no end. For Maolana this apparent moment is the moment of conscious preparation for the purpose of joining the Beloved.


To be sure, the origin of pantheism in Islamic thought, as emerged from both ancient Greek and Hindu theosophy, shares an overlapping basis with Maolana's approach to dialectic. There are indeed numerous instances both in Mathnavi and Divn-e Shams where the traces of Pantheism are overtly pronounced. These tendencies are, for the most part, stemming from Maolana's unsystematic and unmethodical approach to the question of metaphysics, in general, and that of God in particular. These inconsistencies are also due essentially to Maolana's intellectual tradition and the epistemological influences of his time. Yet, deep down in the multitude of his work and his reflective experience, there is also a magnificent universal tendency in his imagery toward a highly developed method of dialectic.

We argue that manifestation of this remarkable development in some of Maolana's discourses is consistent with Hegel's dialectical system, which has emerged some five hundred years later. In his Logic, Hegel, presenting a critical analysis of "Natural or Rational Theology," inter alia, points to the question of Pantheism as follows:
The maxim of Becoming, that Being is the passage into Nought, and Nought the passage into Being, is controverted by the maxim of Pantheism, the doctrine of the eternity of matter, that from nothing comes nothing, and that something can only come of something. The ancients saw plainly that [it] ... really abolishes.. Becoming: for what it comes from and what it becomes are one and the same.

In so far as the question of God according to Pantheism is concerned, Hegel refers us to eastern religions, particularly to Hindu religious texts, such as the Bhagvd-Git. He extensively cites Krishna to show his supreme stature and his godly pronouncements as the most distinct Being. Hegel demonstrates how strongly Krishn declares to be everything: the "producer" and the "destroyer" of the whole universe, "the light of the
sun and the moon," "life in all beings," etc., etc. Yet, Hegel observes that "[t]his everything, rather, the infinitely manifold sensuous manifold of the finite [which] is in all these pictures ... [is] without essential being of its very own...."

"Hinduism, however, has the higher conception of Brahm, the pure unity of thought in itself, where the empirical everything of the world, as also those proximate substantialities, called Gods, vanish." As a result, Hegel concludes that this sort of pantheism, i.e. identification of God with the empirical world--at least on the logical level--is none other than monotheism.Here, Hegel's proposed logical inconsistency of the concept of God in Hinduism is made a preamble of his larger criticism against the monotheism of the three great religions of the Middle East--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet, Hegel, having some intimate knowledge of Rumi's thought and poetry, via Friedrich Rückert (d. 1866) and, perhaps, F. D. A. Tholuck (d. 1874), makes appreciative comments on his dialectical approach.

Hegel argues that in order to see the consciousness of the One "... in its finest purity and sublimity, we must consult the Mohammedns [sic.]." He then immediately focuses on Rumi as follows:

If, [for instance], in the excellent Jalloddin-Rumi in particular, we find the unity of the soul with the One set forth, and that unity described as love, this spiritual unity is an exaltation above the finite and vulgar, a transfiguration of the natural and the spiritual, in which the externalism and transitoriness [sic.] of immediate nature, and of empirical secular spirit, is discarded and absorbed.

The above passage is clearly an indication of Hegel's confirmation--and even admiration--of Mouln's successful application of dialectical method to the unity of divine love; an admiration of the pioneering work that was produced some five-hundred years before the master himself. Hegel is so impressed by Rumi's imagery and precision that he could not refrain from quoting long passages from his magnificent poetry. We could not agree more with Hegel on his fine selection and, in this short essay, have no choice but to accept the immense risk of reproducing this lengthy quotation in its entirety.

Hegel's selection of Maolana's poetry is as follows:

I saw but One through all heaven's starry gleaming:
I saw but One in all sea billows wildly streaming.
I looked into the heart, a waste of worlds, a sea, --
I saw a thousand dreams, --yet One amid all dreaming.
And earth, air [wind?], water, fire, when thy decree is given,
Are molten into One: against thee none hath striven.
There is no living heart but beats unfailingly,
In the one song of praise to thee, from earth and heaven.

As one ray of thy light appears the noonday sun,
But yet thy light and mine eternally are one.
As dust beneath thy feet the heaven that rolls on high:
Yet only one, and one forever, thou and I.
The dust may turn to heaven, and heaven to dust decay;
Yet art thou one with me, and shalt be one for aye.
How may the words of life that fill heaven's utmost part
Rest in the narrow casket of one poor human heart?
How can the sun's own rays, a fairer gleam to fling,
Hide in a lowly husk, the jewel's covering?
How may the rose-grove all its glorious bloom unfold,
Drinking in mire and slime, and feeding on the mould?
How can the darksome shell that sips the salt sea stream,
Fashion a shining pearl, the sunlight's joyous beam?
Oh, heart! Should warm winds fan thee, should'st thou floods endure,
One element is wind and flood; but be thou pure.

I'll tell thee how from out the dust God moulded man, --
Because the breath of Love He breathed into his clay:
I'll tell thee why the spheres their whirling paths began, --
They mirror to God's throne Love's glory day by day:
I'll tell thee why the morning winds blow o'er the grove, --
It is to bid Love's roses bloom abundantly:
I'll tell thee why the night broods deep the earth above, --
Love's bridal tent to deck with sacred canopy:
All riddles of the earth dost thou desire to prove? --
To every earthly riddle is Love alone the key.

Life shrinks from Death in woe and fear,
Though Death ends well Life's bitter need:
So shrinks the heart when Love draws near,
As though 'twere Death in very deed:
For wheresoever Love finds room,
There Self, the sullen tyrant, dies.
So let him `perish in the gloom, --
Thou to the dawn of freedom rise.

As we shall demonstrate below, the above imagery, which is a masterful portrayal of dialectic, is not an exception in Rumi's colorful and monumental work on the unity of divine love.At this juncture though we need to introduce the three organic "moments" or "sides" that are relevant to any logical entity based upon Hegel's dialectic. These
moments are: (a) "the Abstract side, or that of understanding;" (b) "the Dialectical, or that of negative reason;" (c) "the Speculative, or that of positive reason." In the same text, Hegel examines the notion of God in terms of these three moments as follows:

(a) [The purpose of understanding of the Deity is to find which predicates would or would not correspond with] ... the fact in our imagination as God. [In doing so, understanding] ... assumes the contrast between positive and negative to be absolute; and hence, in the long run, nothing is left for the notion [i.e., God] as understanding takes it, but the empty abstraction of indeterminate Being, ... the lifeless product of modern `Deism.'

(b) The method of demonstration employed in finite knowledge must always lead to an inversion of the true order. For it requires the statement of some objective ground for God's being, which thus acquires the appearance of being derived from something else. This mode of proof, guided as it is by the canon of mere
analytical identity, is embarrassed by difficulty of passing from the finite to the infinite. Either the finitude of the existing world ... clings to the notion of deity, and God has to be defined as the immediate substance of the world--which is Pantheism; or he remains an object set over against the subject, and in this way,
finite--which is Dualism.

(c) The attributes of God which ought to be various and precise had, properly speaking, sunk and disappeared in the abstract notion of pure reality, of indeterminate being.... [O]n the one hand, as relations to finite circumstances, themselves possess a finite character (giving us such properties as just, gracious, mighty, wise, etc.), on the other hand, ... infinite.

Given the above dialectical mediation, the notion of God, as an entity, becomes "positive"--that is to say, God acquires a definite content--by virtue of being the "resultant," and, in this manner, it no longer remains a formal, abstract, and empty "unity," but a unity of "distinct proposition," that is to say, a true manifestation of "concrete" thought. Consequently, as Hegel argues, God, that is an empty and formal abstraction in the moment of understanding--through the process of mediation--obtains a positive and concrete content in thought.

We are now in a position to re-examine Rumi's dialectic of divine love and transformation in the light of Hegel's logical doctrine. In this re-examination, we hope to show that these three moments of dialectical mediation are implicit in many of Rumi's imageries. At the outset, it is important to note that there is a strong evolutionary
tendency in Rumi's discourse, particularly when he speaks of the state of Being. This tendency, however, has long been subject of different scholarly interpretations both in the East and the West. The following is a remarkable example:
I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and turned to animal.
I died as animal and became Man.
What fear I, then, I cannot diminish by dying?
Once when I die as Human, I'll become an angel,
And I shall give up angelhood,
I shall become what no mind e'r conceived.
For Not-Being, `adam, calls in an organlike tune:
"Verily we are His, and to Him we return!"

As Schimmel remarks, Reynold A. Nicholson (1868-1945), a prominent Western authority on Rumi, interprets the above imagery as the expression of one "Divine Spirit," moving through "the various levels of existence," in accordance with the Neo-platonic tradition. Others attribute this to Maolana's "Darwinian [view] long before Darwin." Still others portray it as an Aristotelian reflection. Schimmel though regards all these interpretations as "too materialistic." She prefers the story of chickpeas in Mathnavi as the key to this question and contends that Mouln in this poem wants to remind us "only by constant sacrifice is development possible."

While we do not dispute a truism associated with Professor Schimmel's interpretation, we nevertheless wish to take issue with her reasoning. For, by invoking the notion of sacrifice, she only provides a partial answer to the basic universal question of unity and existential transformation (i.e., being, becoming, and nothingness) raised in
this poem, an answer that also falls short of responding to the recurring question of why sacrifice in the first place. To be sure, being a derived concept itself, sacrifice holds neither a sufficient conceptual ground nor an empirical ground as an answer. This imagery calls for the answer that would offer an explanation faithful to Rumi's dialectic.
According to the logic of dialectic, there is a distinction between Being and Becoming, on the one hand, and Being and Non-Being, on the other hand. In the above poem, Maolana presents a composite and complex problem of existential transformation.

Viewing the movement from a mineral state (inanimate existence)--as a potential Being--to becoming a Human Being and beyond in terms of the three moments of Abstract, Dialectical, and Speculative, one may come to realization that Human Being is potentially an indeterminate entity and thus is capable of becoming what Maolana
perceives as "no mind e'r conceived," or infinite.In this imagery, Maolana is intuitively aware of the mediating processes that are connecting a Human Being to an inanimate existence (mineral), on the one hand, and a
Being to a Non-Being (`adam, and thus within an infinite sphere of God), on the other In other words, Rumi is articulately forming a complex, contradictory, and hand universal unity through a series of dialectical mediation and mystical transformation.

And it is precisely due to such mediating processes in this imagery (and many other imageries in both Mathnavi and Divn-e Shams) that Maolana liberates himself from the burden of Pantheism. Our interpretation here decidedly goes beyond all empirical human motivations, including those that may lead to the phenomenon of sacrifice. For all empirical human motivations are essentially in need of some type of logical systems (mode of explanation!) that are capable of providing a sufficient ground for them. We attempted to unveil all moments of Becoming--as opposed to Being--that are shown so eloquently and completely via Rumi's mode of exposition in this short poem. Nevertheless, for obvious reasons, we are generally sympathetic to the notion of sacrifice
and, more importantly, to the historical martyrdom of Hallj (d. 922).

The echo of Becoming (as opposed to Being) is distinctly present in almost all of Maolana's work. Here is another poem from Mathnawi:

Our cry is like the bell in the caravan,
Or like the thunder's voice when the clouds are wandering:
Oh traveler, do not bind thy heart to any station,
That you may not become sleepy at the time of attraction!23

The journey here has a wider meaning in the Hegelian sense and the process of transformation mirrors the contradictions of Becoming that ultimately ("at the time of attraction") reveals itself in the state of mediated absolute. The time of attraction is when there is absolutely no distinction between the lover and the Beloved. Here, Maolana is not seeking any station in his journey but, perhaps parallel with his previous poem, he
strives to "become what no mind e'r conceived:" when--and where? "[A]t the time of attraction!"

On the question of mediated unity and ultimate annihilation of the lover in the Beloved, this frequently cited story from Mathnavi might reveal yet another lively dimension of Maolana's notion of love:

A man knocked at the door of his beloved.
"Who are you, trusted one? Thus asked the friend.
He answered: "I!" The friend said: "Go away,
Here is no place for people raw and crude!"
What, then, could cook the raw and rescue him
But separation's fire and exile's flame?
The poor man went to travel a whole year
And burned in separation from his friend,
And he matured, was cooked and burnt, returned
And carefully approached the friend's abode.
He walked around it now cautious fear
Lest from his lips unfitting words appear.
His friend called out: "Who is there at my door?"
The answer: "You, dear, you are at the door!"
He said: "Come in, now that you are all I--
There is no room in this house for two `I's!"

Again, the essence of above parable and the glimpse of Divine Beauty are revealed, perhaps more sensuously,
in the following verses from Mathnavi:

Ever more shall I desire
Than time's bounded needs require.
Ever as more flowers I pluck
Blossoms new gay spring's attire.
And when through the heavens I sweep
Rolling spheres will flash new fire.
Perfect Beauty only can
True eternal love inspire.25

As for the formality of religious observation and customary religious rituals, Maolana's piety had nothing to do with them. This point, which is also openly expressed by Maolana as a pressing call to his contemporaries, is remarkably echoed in the following ghazal from Divn-e Shams:

O you who've gone on pilgrimage--
where are you, where, oh where?
Here, here is the Beloved!
Oh come now, come, oh come!
Your friend, he is your neighbor,
he is next to your wall--
You, erring in the desert--
what air of love is this?
If you'd see the Beloved's
from without any form--
You are the house, the master,
You are the Kaaba, you!...
Where, one soul's pearly essence
when you're the Sea of God?
That's true--and yet your troubles
may turn to treasures rich--
How sad that you yourself veil
the treasure that is yours!

Finally, it is important to reassess the notion of mysticism in the light of dialectical understanding of Rumi's work presented above. To be sure, Mathnavi and Divn-e Shams are both wrapped up in the veil of mystical expressions from the beginning to the end. At the same time, Maolana himself was deeply absorbed in
mystical ideas and tradition of Sufism in his lifetime. Maolana's rising sun, Shamsoddin of Tabriz, was also a mystic sage of intense proportion. Likewise, a great proportion of Maolana's followers throughout the world are among those who always appreciate the mystical qualities of his work.

"The term Mysticism," Hegel argues, "is to designate what is mysterious and incomprehensible, [as] the epithet is applied by one class to denote the real and the true [and] by another to name everything connected with superstition and deception." Yet Hegel--rightly so--refuses to accept either of these conclusions. He maintains that "... there is mystery in the mystical only for understanding, which is ruled by the principle of abstract identity; whereas the mystical, as synonymous with the speculative, is the concrete unity of those propositions which understanding only accepts in their separation and opposition."

Our position is the same: we hold that (1) mysticism is neither superstition nor deception: it is rather (real) phenomena that arise from abstract identity implicit in the moment of understanding, and (2) as soon as the concrete unity of the opposites is accomplished--the speculative moment--there remains neither the mystery nor the mystical. Hence, mysticism is the product of understanding in isolation from other moments in dialectical reasoning. Let's give the last word to Hegel on this point:

[A]s we have seen, the abstract thinking of understanding is so far from being either ultimate or stable, that it shows a perpetual tendency to work [sic.] its own dissolution and swing round into its opposite. Reasonableness, on the contrary, just consists in embracing within itself these opposites as unsubstantial elements. Thus the reason-world may be equally styled mystical--not however because thought cannot both reach and comprehend it, but merely because it lies beyond the compass of understanding.


In this essay, we have focused on some of Rumi's imageries in the light of their dialectical import. As we have seen, the application of dialectical logic to the question of divine love is much more than references to some anecdotal ironies and contradictions wrapped in mystical pronouncements. In contrast, the medieval philosophy/theology, particularly in its neo-platonic bent, is metaphorically replete with such ironies. As we
have pointed out, Rumi has gone remarkably beyond Pantheism (and Dualism)--particularly on the question of universal divine love--drawing upon a series of mediating moments within the dialectical reasoning. Hence, Maolana's notion of love is a mediated notion in which the finite reaches infinity through love.

Pantheism identifies the infinite (e.g., God) with the finite world in order to identify the latter. Yet, by such identification the infinite inevitably obtains an identity with the finite configuration and magnitude of the real world. The choice thus either to accept the finitude of the infinite (Pantheism) or to drop Pantheism altogether and accept
the infinite and the finite, side by side, in a dualistic manner (Dualism). An alternative to these faulty propositions is, of course, to situate the infinite and the finite within the three moments of dialectic.

We have shown that Rumi's discourse in these imageries is so consistent with the system of Hegelian dialectic that, at one point, he had succeeded in winning a high praise from the master himself. Although, unmistakably, there is a trace of Pantheism in these faulty propositions is, of course, to situate the infinite and the finite within the three's work, yet, as we have shown above, in some of his discourses he is some five hundred years ahead of the most vigorous critic of Pantheism--Hegel.
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