Someone said: “Our Master does not utter a word.”
Rumi answered: Well, it was the thought of me that brought you to my presence. This thought of me did not speak with you saying, “How are things with you?” The thought without words drew you here. If the reality of me draws you without words and transports you to another place, what is so wonderful with words? Words are the shadow of reality, a mere branch of reality. Since the shadow draws, how much more the reality!
Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words. If someone should see a hundred thousand miracles and divine blessings, still, without an inner connection to that saint or prophet who was the source of those miracles, all these phenomena would come to nothing. It is this inward element that draws and moves us. If there were no element of amber in straw, the straw would never be attracted to the amber [Rumi is referring to static electricity here]. They would not cling to each other, even if you rubbed the amber with fur. This exchange between them is hidden, not a visible thing.
It is the thought that brings us. The thought of a garden brings us to the garden. The thought of a shop brings us to the shop. However, within these thoughts is a secret deception. Have you never gone to a certain place thinking it would be good, only to find disappointment? These thoughts then are like a shroud, and within that shroud someone is hidden. The day reality draws you and the shroud of thought disappears, there will be no disappointment. Then you will see reality as it is, and nothing more.
“Upon that day when the secrets are tried.”
So, what reason is there for me to speak? In reality that which draws is a single thing, but it appears to be many. We are possessed by a hundred different desires. “I want vermicelli,” we say. “I want ravioli. I want halvah. I want fritters. I want fruit. I want dates.” We name these one by one, but the root of the matter is a single thing: the root is hunger. Don’t you see how, once we have our fill of but one thing, we say, “Nothing else is necessary?” Therefore, it was not ten or a hundred things, but one thing that drew us.
“And their number
We have appointed only as a trial.”
The many things of this world are a trial appointed by God, for they hide the single reality. There is a saying that the saint is one, humankind is a hundred, meaning the saint’s whole attention remains upon the one truth, while people are scattered over a hundred appearances. But which hundred? Which fifty? Which sixty? Lost in this world of mirrored reflections, they are a faceless people without hands and feet, without mind and Soul, quivering like a magic talisman, like quicksilver or mercury. They do not know who they are. Call them sixty or a hundred or a thousand, and the saint is one, but is not this view a trial itself? For the truth is that the hundreds are nothing, while the saint is a thousand, and a hundred thousand, and thousands of thousands.
A king once gave a single soldier the rations for a hundred men. The army protested, but the king said nothing. When the day of battle arrived, all the men fled the field, except that one soldier who fought alone. “There you are,” the king said. “It was for this I fed one man as a hundred.”
It behooves us to strip away all our prejudices and seek out a friend of God. However, when we’ve spent our whole life in the company of people who lack discrimination, then our own discriminative faculty becomes weak, and that true friend may pass us by unrecognized.
Discrimination is a quality that is always hidden in a person. Don’t you see that an insane person possesses hands and feet but lacks discrimination? Discrimination is a subtle essence within you. Yet, day and night you have been occupied with nurturing the physical form that does not know right from wrong. Why have you devoted all your energies to looking after the physical, entirely neglecting that subtle essence? The physical exists through that essence, but that essence in no way depends on the physical.
The light that shines through the windows of the eyes and ears – if those windows did not exist, the light would not stop. It would find other windows to shine through. If you bring a lamp before
the sun, do you say, “I see the sun by means of this lamp”? God forbid! If you did not bring the lamp, the sun would still shine.
What need is there for a lamp?
This is the danger in associating with kings. It is not that you may lose your life – we must lose our life in the end anyway, whether today or tomorrow does not matter. The danger arises from the fact that when kings enter upon the scene, and the spell of their influence gains strength, becoming like a great lamp, the person who keeps company with them, claims their friendship, and accepts money from them will inevitably speak in accordance with their desires. That person will listen to the kings’ mundane views with the utmost attention, and will not be able to deny them.
That is where the danger lies, it leads to a fading respect for the true source. When you cultivate the interest of kings, that other interest which is fundamental to the spiritual life becomes a stranger to you. The more you proceed down the path of kings, the more that direction where the Beloved dwells becomes lost. The more you make your peace with worldly people, the more the Beloved turns away from you. Going in their direction renders you subject to their rule. Once you have turned down their path, in the end God gives them power over you.
It is a pity to reach the ocean, and to be satisfied with a little pitcherful from the sea. After all, there are pearls in the sea, and from the sea come a myriad of precious things. What is the value in just taking water? What pride can intelligent people have in that? This world is a mere foam fleck of the True Sea. That Ocean is the science of the saints, and within that Water is the Pearl Itself.
This world is but foam full of floating jetsam. Yet, through the turning of the waves, and the rhythmic surging of the sea in constant motion, this foam takes on a certain beauty. But this beauty is a borrowed thing coming from elsewhere. It is a false coin that sparkles to the eye.
People are the astrolabe of God, but it requires an astronomer to use the astrolabe. If a vegetable-seller or a greengrocer should find the astrolabe, what good would it do them? From that astrolabe, what could they know of the movements of the circling stars and the positions of the planets, their influences and so forth? But in the hands of the astronomer, the astrolabe becomes truly valuable.
Just as this copper astrolabe reflects the movements of the heavens like a mirror, so the human being is the astrolabe of God.
“We have honored the children of Adam.”
Those who have been moved by God to see the one reality and learn Its ways through the astrolabe of their own being, behold moment by moment, flash by flash, the testament of God. Indeed, it is an infinite beauty that never leaves their mirror.
God has servants who cloak themselves in a wisdom, knowingness and grace invisible to others. Out of their excessive jealousy and love for God these servants cloak themselves, just like Mutanabbi says of beautiful women:
Figured silks they wore, not to beautify
But to guard their beauty from lustful eyes.