The Unknown Secret of the Anatolian Mystic Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

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Throughout its history Asia Minor (Anatolia) has been the cradle of many civilizations, cultures and also different religions. There were times when Pagans, Shamanists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted peacefully in this land. During these times, there lived some remarkable men who have richly contributed to the spiritual life of the Anatolian cultural mosaic in their own unique ways. Among them was an outstanding Sufi mystic who has made a great contribution not only to the spiritual life of Anatolia but also to the world. This enigmatic figure was Mevlana J. Rumi. Ever since the 13th century, Rumi has never lost popularity and even now there is a growing interest in Rumi’s poems and other works. In various countries of the world, people have formed ‘Rumi circles’ (Rumi groups) to recite and discuss his poems. Furthermore, thousands of people from all over the world visit Konya (where he used to live) and his shrine. And every year in Konya, on the anniversary of his death, a special celebration (Sheb-i Aruz) takes place. As we recall, the year 2007 (Rumi’s 800th birthday) was declared as the “International Rumi Year” by UNESCO.

When we ponder on it, we may find it quite amazing that people from different countries, cultures and religions share a common interest in Rumi and his works. So we may wonder what made him so popular and how come his popularity endured over the course of the centuries. Rumi was brought up as a Muslim and he was fundamentally a scholar of Qur’an and Islam but he was not an orthodox type. During his lifetime Rumi was noted for his cosmopolitan outlook; and as we examine his works, it becomes apparent that he has managed to reach across religious and social divisions with a spiritual insight which embraces humanity as a whole. We can also perceive that the intrinsic meanings of his poems very often transcend religious dictums and that his relation to God is based on a ‘one to one’ (direct) relationship. Although Rumi’s poetry is wide ranging and includes many different ideas, at the background, the essential theme was his spiritual guest and desire to be united with the Divine, so, it can be said his outpourings of poetry were a reflection of his longing and endeavour to attain this goal. According to Rumi, one did not have to belong to any particular race, culture or religion to be involved in a spiritual quest. In his work we never come across any discrimination or prejudices concerning other religious beliefs.[1]

We can imagine, to be able to appeal to so many different people even in our time, Rumi’s ‘spiritual understanding’ must be comprised of ‘mutually acceptable’ spiritual values and qualities, rather than reflecting the dogmas of a particular religious belief. Those who are familiar with Rumi’s works would probably agree that his refined spiritual understanding–which advocated, compassion, morality, modesty, unlimited tolerance and his Sufi teachings based on love of God–must be the main reason why he has been esteemed highly throughout the centuries and in the present. However, at the background of Rumi’s spiritual understanding and inspirations, there were also other significant factors which affected his world-outlook and soul-spiritual development. But furthermore, among these factors, there was ‘a very special one’ which had a great influence in shaping his soul-spiritual constitution. This particular influence had helped him form the spiritual understanding which transcended the rigid frames of religious beliefs and other biased opinions and enabled him to embrace every other human being lovingly without reservations. During his spiritual journey, Rumi had gradually become conscious of this unique spiritual influence which had a continuous effect on his soul; but because of a certain reason, he was not able to share his innermost thoughts and feelings freely with the multitude, consequentially, this particular wisdom had to remain as a secret throughout his life. In the verses below (from his book “Divan-e Kabir”[2]) Rumi briefly touches upon this secret.

Hush now; if it was permitted, I would have disclosed a secret,

Which nobody has told even to our pure hearted brothers (Brothers of the Sufi Order.)

The ‘door of explanation’ is closed

Therefore, from now on say: “To be silent will be better from our point of view,

It will be more appropriate.”

And what was the reason why Rumi wasn’t able to share what he knew freely but had to keep it as a secret? We can find the answer among the verses of Divan-e Kabir:

It is such a pity that I cannot say it.

I am afraid to talk about it because the ‘sword of sharia’ (the Islamic law) is drawn out

And is shining over my head.

Apparently Rumi was not happy at all about this compulsory restraint, but nevertheless, he knew for sure that there would be some consequences of sharing this ‘particular secret’ and that he would end up in serious trouble; this is why he has drawn attention to the fact that he cannot speak freely or disclose anything.

But before we delve into the details of this ‘specific mystery’ and try to shed some light on it, we need to consider some other significant factors that have affected Rumi since his childhood and have helped his soul to become receptive to this ‘unique influence’ (unique mystery.)

Mevlana J. Rumi was born in 1207, in Balkh – Khorasan, which was situated in the north eastern provinces of Persia (now within the borders of Afghanistan.) But more than just being the geographical location of his birth, the rich cultural and religious background of Balkh had been influential on Rumi’s first impressions of the world and on his early education. [The first impressions Rumi had received as a child needs to be explained further as they played an important role later during his spiritual journey in Asia Minor.] His mother, Mumine was the daughter of the sovereign ruler of Balkh. His father, Bahaeddin Veled (Baha al-Din Walad) was a renowned scholar and learned-man of his time. However, because of political reasons and the threat of the approaching Mongol invasion Veled and his family had to leave Balkh. So, he set out with his family towards Anatolia. On their way, they stopped by Baghdad and also made a pilgrimage to Mecca. [We can imagine, to circumambulate the holy Kaaba must have been a very exciting experience for Rumi as a child.] On their route, they also stopped by Damascus. Another important event regarding this journey was, Feriduddin Attar (a Persian Sufi, poet and a herbalist) who had formerly heard of Bahaeddin Veled’s fame had come to greet them in Nishabur and presented young Rumi his book named “Esrarname.” It is said, Rumi had kept Attar’s book by his bedside for many years. When they arrived in Anatolia, they lived in Karaman (Larende) for seven years. Meanwhile, Alaeddin Keykubat (the monarch of the Seljuk Turks), had heard that a renowned scholar was living in Karaman, and in 1228 he invited them to settle in Konya (formerly ‘Iconium’.)

Zoroastrianism in Balkh

But before we proceed with Rumi’s life in Konya, we need to go back to Balkh to draw attention to some influences which I believe have affected Rumi in his early childhood. Balkh was one of the oldest cities in the world and its antique Greek name was Bactra, but it was also known as Zariaspa[3]. Balkh was traditionally a centre of Zoroastrianism[4] and it didn’t lose this status for a long time. Balkh was also regarded as the first place where Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) initially preached his religion, as well as the place he died (according to the poet Firdausi.) There was also an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple named Navbahar in Balkh.

Zoroastrians had contributed a great deal to the cultural life in Balkh with their ancient heritage. They had a very special religious understanding which had not changed since the times of Zoroaster. Zoroaster was one of the greatest initiates in the history of humanity (he was also endowed with the faculty of clairvoyance.) What had this great initiate proclaimed thousands of years ago? He had declared that in the cosmos, there exists specific forces of “Good” (light) and “Evil” (darkness) and that these two forces are manifestations of the primal universal principle of “Zeruane Akarene” (the undisturbed and uncreated cosmic time.) He had also indicated the name of the divine-being who belonged to the Good forces was “Ahura Mazda” (the Great Aura of the Sun) and the forces of darkness were named “Angru Manyu” (also known as Ahriman). Zoroaster had also proclaimed that the “Good” forces were involved in a continuous battle with the “Evil” forces and human beings were also involved in this battle on Earth, for this conflict could be only resolved in the physical plane. So, during their life time, human beings had no other choice but to choose between Good and Evil and side with either of them. However, the aim of this battle was not to destroy the “Evil” forces, but it was rather an endeavour to transform them. Zoroaster had also given his followers some basic principles as a guideline[5]. These were; to cultivate good thoughts, good words and good deeds (actions).

Therefore, in contrast with the Buddhists (and some other Far eastern teachings), Zoroastrians do not seek enlightenment, deathlessness or liberation from being caught in a perpetual wheel of death and incarnation in the sense of Indian teachings, but they believe they are on Earth to take part in the ‘cosmic moral battle’ between Good and Evil. Zoroastrians are known as ‘fire worshippers,’ but for them, ‘fire’ is actually a visible symbol the “inner light” which burns within each person and it is also a physical symbol of the divine-Being (Ahura Mazda) found in the “Sun sphere”. Zoroaster had also indicated, ‘Ahura Mazda’ was going to leave the ‘Sun Sphere’ and come to the physical plane in a distant future. And this exalted being indeed came to the world at a later time, but with a different identity which became related with a certain religion, as we shall later see.

Besides Zoroastrianism, Buddhism had also been in existence in Balkh for a very long time and it had a strong influence on the cultural and religious life of the city. Therefore we must also briefly mention this religious aspect of the city in which Rumi was born.

Buddhism in Balkh

According to a popular legend, Buddhism was introduced in Balkh by two Buddhist monks who were disciples of Buddha. Later it became a flourishing centre of Buddhism. In the 7th century, besides a famous Buddhist monastery, there were about hundred Buddhist convents and thousands of Buddhist monks in Balkh. For this reason, there were numerous Buddhist stupas and other religious monuments in the city and its vicinity. (Also Hinduism existed in Balkh, but not as a major group.) Much is known about the Buddha, the Dhammapada and Buddhism in the West, but essentially, it can be said that the mission of the Bodhisattva who became Buddha was to incorporate into humanity the principle of compassion and love, e.g. in one of his sayings he had indicated that ‘one of the most rewarding spiritual practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we come across’. As we know, in Rumi’s approach (and teachings) “love” had a very prominent place.

In the second half of the 7th century, during the expansion of Islam, among other places, Muslim armies invaded Balkh. This was when peoples of Balkh got acquainted with Islam religion. The Arabian conquest played a role in Buddhism’s decline in Balkh to a certain extent, but it had little effect on the normal religious life in the monasteries of the city or Buddhist population outside. Buddhism continued to flourish with the monasteries as the centres of Buddhist learning and training.

Therefore, at the time when Bahaeddin Veled was living there (and when Rumi was born), Balkh had long been impacted by a diversity of religious influences, for this reason, it was a city where religious tolerance was commonly practiced and adherents of all major religions coexisted peacefully[6]. So, although Bahaeddin Veled was of Muslim faith, the general attitude prevalent in the city had enabled him to acquire an unprejudiced opinion of the various faiths in Balkh. Veled must have realised that a mutual understanding of freedom of belief was essential for different religions to coexist harmoniously. It was necessary to draw attention to Rumi’s father’s intrinsic worth, for Veled was the one who had raised Rumi and played a role in bringing about many spiritual virtues in him. He had also taught Rumi everything he knew as a scholar.

The foregoing explanations were necessary to depict the intermingled life-style of Balkh which Rumi had experienced as a child. Surely he must have been impressed by the Buddhist monks (in saffron coloured robes), whose spiritual teachings were based on love, peace and humbleness; he might have even joined them in a meditation with his father in a Buddhist monastery. Also–since Bahaeddin Veled was a revered scholar in Balkh–his father had probably arranged a meeting with the Zoroastrian priests and Rumi had the chance to witness their renowned initiation ritual and gaze at the special fire which was continuously lit in their fire temple. Having gone through a variety of such experiences which impressed him and made him wonder, Rumi must have had many questions to ask concerning all the impressions that had touched his soul. And it is very likely that he had arrived in Anatolia carrying these intense memories.

So, it can be said his early impressions of Balkh and the education he received from his father were the initial factors that helped Rumi achieve an objective outlook regarding other religions. In Anatolia, during the years he matured spiritually, he must have realized that the religious belief a man is born into has a very strong influence on shaping his personality and his soul; accordingly–although Rumi was an important Islamic religious figure in Konya–rather than expecting people to accept his convictions, he always tried to understand the beliefs and opinions of the people he met. Briefly said, Rumi did not discriminate between Muslims, Jews or Christians (or others); in his view, they all belonged to the human race and every human being was created by the same God. Therefore, his peaceful and tolerant teachings have always appealed to people from different religious beliefs throughout many centuries.

Rumi’s spiritual path in Konya

Bahaeddin Veled and his family were most welcomed in Konya. Veled began to teach in the central Madrasa (Islamic theological school) in Konya; meanwhile, he also educated his son. Rumi had begun to attend his father’s lessons at an early age and learned Arabic, Turkish and Greek. He also studied the other religions along with Islam. Under his father’s tutelage he advanced rapidly and already became a scholar at the age of 23. When his father died, Rumi was twenty-four years old. After several years, in accordance with his father’s will and Alaeddin Keykubat’s request, Rumi took over his father’s position as a teacher and preacher (approx. in 1237). Later, Rumi met Seyid Burhaneddin Tirmiz, who was a former pupil of his father. Tirmiz functioned as his teacher and mentor for nine years. In his book “Fihi ma Fih” (meaning, ‘It Is What It Is’) Rumi often refers to Tirmiz.

Some years later, a remarkable Sufi mystic came to Konya and entered Rumi’s life. His meeting with the wandering dervish ‘Shams-e Tabrizi’ became a very important turning point in Rumi’s life, for he was greatly inspired by him. Before Shams arrived in Konya, Rumi was teaching in the Madrasa and was preaching at the central mosque, but after Shams came, he began to spend most of his time with him. It is said their intense togetherness (based on sharing spiritual subjects) lasted three and a half years and during this period Rumi neglected his followers and friends who had been in his close circle. Meanwhile, nobody had an idea about the content of their conversations and what this close relationship was all about. So, as a consequence, they were offended and disappointed (and maybe even became jealous.) Upon sensing that many people were displeased with their deep rapport Shams decided to leave Konya. Being very unhappy about his departure, Rumi went into seclusion and wrote many verses of “Divan-e Kabir.” After some time, he sent his son Sultan Veled (who was named after his grandfather) to find Shams. Veled found him in Damascus. Upon seeing him, Shams realized that Rumi had sent him and returned to Konya with him. Both Rumi and Shams rejoiced their reunion, but they were confronted with the same kind of reaction again, however, this time there was some resentment in their reaction. One day, all of a sudden, Shams disappeared from Konya. There are many speculations concerning Shams-e Tabrizi’s sudden disappearance and different versions of this story can be found in detail in books or articles written about Mevlana J. Rumi. But it is necessary to direct our inquiry towards finding out about the content of the secrets Shams had shared with Rumi.

Shams-e Tabrizi was a Sufi master From Tabriz – Persia. Regarding the way he behaved, he could be likened to the unpredictable and witted Zen masters, but of course what he imparted to Rumi was within the context of Sufism. Since Rumi had adopted a new approach regarding Sufi teachings after he met Shams, we can deduce he learned some further (intricate) Sufi methods from Shams. Actually, the ‘Persian’ mystical tradition practiced by Rumi is called “Khurasanian” and in contrast, the ‘Baghdadian’ tradition of Arab Sufism is more restrained. It is believed that Rumi had learned secrets of Khurasanian Sufi methods of enlightenment from Shams[7] and turned into a devotee of music and dance (whereas music and dance is not inherent in the Baghdadian Sufi tradition). Briefly said, the teachings Shams-e Tabrizi had imparted, enabled Rumi to transcend his identity of a scholar which was founded on traditional religious teachings. In Rumi’s works it can be clearly perceived that his spiritual quest and longing to be united with God was mainly founded on ‘surrender to God’ and ‘love of God’. The verse below sums-up Rumi’s spiritual approach and the path he chose.

Be a lover, a lover, choose love that you might be a chosen one.

Influences which shaped Rumi’s Sufi Teachings

However, Rumi’s fundamental spiritual approach–which aims a union with God–was not originated by him. The teaching of “achieving union with God through love of God” had originally came into being in ancient India and Sufi teachings were permeated by it at a much later time. As a result of this influence, ‘love of God’ was intermingled with the concept of ‘surrender of God’ in Rumi’s Sufism (Tasavvuf) and was used as a method which was directed towards the ultimate aim of merging with God after the complete annihilation of the “self (“I”). In this context, in Bhakti Yoga–which is the yoga of divine love and surrender–the yogi dissolves his ego (“I”) in deep devotion and love of the Divine. His goal is to bring about the complete cessation of the self and to achieve union with the divine-Self of Brahma. In a verse (from Divan-e Kabir) Rumi says:

My God, am I the one who is seeking You or are You the one seeking me?

It is embarrassing to insist on being ‘me’ and not to leave my ‘self’ behind,

For in that case, I keep on being someone else and You are someone else (in this case we remain apart, we are not able to unite.)

Apparently, –similar to the approach found in Bhakti yoga– Rumi also believed to give up the existence of one’s own ‘self’ and become non-existent in God (i.e., to bind one’s heart completely to God) can bring about the “ultimate union”. And since, as a result of merging with God, the ‘self’ would no longer exist, the person would no longer act in accordance with his own ego; then it is God who manifests in this person.

[It is no wonder that Hallac-i Mansur (an enlightened Sufi master) who had declared “I am God” (Enel-Haqq) was brutally killed in Baghdad in 922 because his words were regarded as blasphemy. Mansur was actually saying (according to Sufi terminology); “I am not, only God exists.” Or “I do not exist, only God exists within me”.]

So, even after seven hundredth and forty years, the core of Rumi’s teachings and methodology is still inherent in the Sufi teachings and is valid among the Sufi Order in Konya. It is noteworthy that a European mystic, who was a contemporary of Rumi, had also similar opinions. Meister Eckhart (a 13th century Dominican monk) emphasized the presence of God, the primordial nature of the world as a spark within the human soul. According to Eckhart; for this divine-spark to illuminate man so that he can perceive “the spiritual essence of God” within himself and in all that is created, man must undergo an “unbecoming of the self” (‘ego’); this also involves a “transcendence of logical understanding”, for everything logical understanding (rational thought) can grasp, and everything that “human desire’ demands is not God. In other words,  as a result of experiencing “enlightenment,” one enters a state of ‘being’ that transcends ordinary human mind rather than remaining within the frame of rational thought and logical understanding which provides continuous “descriptions” which uphold our mental picture of the visible physical world.

In the poem below Rumi clearly expresses how he evaluates logic (within the context of Sufi teachings.)

Go away logic, there is no thinker here,

No room for even your finest split hair.

The way of the Sufi 

It would be beyond the scope of this article to delve further into the details of Sufi teachings and Sufi training methods; however, to form an idea of what Rumi’s and Shams’s dialogues were based on and in what way was Rumi inspired by Shams, it is necessary to draw attention to some fundamental points regarding Sufism. To start with, we must re-emphasize that although there is an Islamic context in prayers and rituals of Rumi’s Sufi teachings, the method of enlightenment by way of whirling (‘Sama’) did not drive from Islamic teachings based on the Qur’an; at the basis of this approach and training, influences that came from Oriental (Indian) teachings can be found. According to the Sufis, ‘man’s inner world is like an infinite ocean which could only be felt and seen with the “eyes of the heart”, while the outer world is but like the passing foam which temporarily appears on the surface of the waves arising from the ocean’; therefore, to be able to merge with this ‘infinite ocean’, one’s identification with the outer world must come to an end. Briefly said, ‘the way of the Sufi’ is an inner journey that aims to annihilate the ‘self’ (through which man is identified with the outer world in diverse ways). But it is necessary to point out that in contrast with traditional Islamic teachings (beliefs), Sufis do not aim to enter a paradise in which the ‘same worldly self’ (of a person) goes on living, but now in a more pleasant setting.

Beyazid Bistam, one of the Persian Sufis, was the first to become acquainted with the doctrine of annihilation of the ‘self’ in God, and he was the first Muslim Sufi to expound this doctrine. Beyazid was a representative of the eastern school of Sufism (Khurasanian tradition), which arose in the east Persian milieu; and his description of the path he pursued provided a model for later Sufis. As a part of their training Sufis are involved in a struggle against “nefs” (self/ego). Nefs[8] is an Arabic word, however it stems from the Hebraic term “nephesch”. In the context of Sufi teachings, nefs is actually the ‘human self’ (ego) which is entangled in the nets of the material world and because it is –at the same time– the seat of all desires and worldly ambitions, ‘nefs’ keeps man bonded to the world. As a part of their training, fasting has been in practice among Sufis (including Rumi) to weaken nefs’s attachment to worldly pleasures. It is also important for the Sufis to achieve a certain moral purity and to gain virtues like compassion, love and modesty. However, Rumi did not only remain within the frame of the fundamental Sufi approach (and methods), for he was deeply influenced by a ‘unique Mystery’ which had been gradually revealed to him.

Iconium (Konya)

As it was mentioned in a former section, Rumi had the chance to have an initial contact with Zoroastrianism and Buddhism when he was a child; however, since Christianity was not a major religion in Balkh and that there weren’t many Christians living there, he didn’t have any notable contact with Christianity[9]. [Later, during his early education in Karaman (Anatolia), he most probably received some initial information about Christianity from his father]. But what Rumi was not able to experience in Balkh (in relation with Christianity and Christians) had been waiting for him in Konya, for in the 13th century, there was a considerable Christian population in Konya, among which were Christian Greeks and Armenians. (In Konya, there were also Jews and non-Muslim Turkmens). But how come there were so many Christians especially in Konya? Let us take a look in the New Testament – ‘Acts’.

Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust off their feet against them and came to Iconium.

Acts 14: 1 It happened in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and Greeks believed.

Acts 16: 2 The Brothers who were at Lystra and Iconium gave a good testimony about him.

As a matter of fact, St. Paul and Barnabas had preached in Iconium[10] during the first missionary journey in about 47 – 48 AD and converted a good number of Jews and Pagans. Shortly afterwards (in about 50 AD) St. Paul had visited Iconium once more (during the second missionary Journey) to organize the church he had founded. Therefore, the town was Christianized rather early and this was the reason why there was a large Christian population in Konya.

Besides the information he had obtained from his father concerning Christianity, Rumi had studied the Gospel in detail; this can be clearly seen when we examine his works. Since Rumi had also learned common and classical Greek, he had the chance to read the Gospel written in Greek. We can deduce, his knowledge of Greek language must have also enabled him communicate easily with the Christian folk living in Konya.

In Konya, Rumi had obviously often come across humble Christian priests (and monks) who were committed to Jesus Christ, prayer and led a religious way of life. Rumi must have noticed that these priests (and some people among the Christian population) had achieved a certain degree of purity of soul and ‘spiritualised love’ and consequently was impressed by them. But Christians were also impressed by Rumi, for he was a saintly man. As the story goes, a Christian monk out of Konya (having heard about Rumi’s fame) came to pay homage to him. When he bowed in front of Rumi, Rumi also bowed bending down to the same level as him. Upon seeing this, the monk bent down some more and similarly Rumi also bent down as much as he did; and this went on until both of them were on the ground and were not able to bend any more. It is said, having witnessed the degree of Rumi’s humbleness, the monk realised why Christians in Konya loved and respected this man.

The depth of Rumi’s knowledge pertaining Jesus Christ, which radiates from some of his verses and the way he expresses vital issues of Christianity “as matters of fact” clearly indicates that he had deep conversations (and maybe some debates) with the Christian monks (or priests) and the knowledge he received from them must have been overwhelming for him. We can imagine, an open minded and unprejudiced man like Rumi was eager to find out more about the central issues of the Holy Trinity, the Crucifixion, Christ’s Resurrection, Jesus being the Son of God and the meaning of the “Word”. These were the principles that formed the core of original Christian belief, in other words, ‘Christianity’ was founded on these doctrines; however, these principles had no place in the Islamic teachings. In fact, even from its outset, Islam always had difficulties in coming to terms with them. We can surmise, being an unprejudiced scholar of Islam, Rumi had always been puzzled with these subjects even before he became friendly with Christians living in Konya. The fact that in his verses he has referred to certain events found in the Gospel hints he was impressed by what was elucidated by Christian priests (or monks); e.g. he refers to the event of the revival of Lazarus by Jesus Christ several times in his book Divan-e Kabir.

As we study Rumi’s works, we can see that he has not essentially made lengthy and detailed remarks about Jesus Christ or Christianity, but when we take a closer look into the words he selected to express himself, we can see that he had understood quite lot regarding the esoteric aspect of Christianity and furthermore, he had no difficulty in accepting the divine aspect of Jesus and had a deep understanding of the Christ (as a divine-Being). This is not surprizing, for he had studied the New Testament and his unprejudiced research had made him more receptive to certain occult secrets surrounding Christ Jesus. When we bear in mind that he could afford to be broad minded at a time when Islam’s power was strongly felt and in spite of having an Islamic upbringing, it would not be wrong to state that Rumi was an enigmatic mystic.

In a foregoing paragraph, I had mentioned that Rumi’s spiritual path was based on ‘love of God’ (and surrender to God) and that he was basically inspired by Indian teachings like Bhakti yoga (imparted by Shams in form of Sufi teachings). However, it is necessary to indicate that Rumi was not foreign to the concept of ‘love of God’, for he had learned it from another source; actually, he had previously come across this concept while he was also studying the Gospel.

In Matthew 22:36, when Jesus Christ was asked: “Which is the most important commandment in the Law?” 37; Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with your entire mind.”

We can imagine Rumi must have been greatly influenced by these profound words of Jesus Christ and that he was also very much impressed by His second most important commandment; Matthew 22:38, “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

This must have helped him realize that all Christians and Jews (and members of other religions) living in Konya were ‘his neighbours’ (his brothers and sisters). It is not hard to conceive that a sensitive and refined soul like Rumi was overwhelmed by these commandments (and Christ’s other profound teachings found in the Gospel) and I believe this is why an unwavering concept of ‘love of God’ and ‘love of humanity’ existed at the centre of his deeper spiritual understanding and teachings.

Rumi’s secret

At this point, let us return to the issue of “Rumi’s secret”. We have seen that Rumi had learned a great deal from his friend Shams-e Tabrizi regarding the Khurasanian tradition and other teachings related to Sufism. But we may wonder if Shams had also disclosed some secrets pertaining Jesus Christ and esoteric Christianity? There are two verses in which Rumi speaks of a ‘friend’ who is somehow connected to this ‘secret’.

I will not tell the secret my friend spoke.

That pearl, that precious trust, will not be pierced.

I have slept these very nights for the fear

That I might spill those words out in my sleep.

From that day onwards my friend and I

Made a pledge to keep silent

And in helplessness, bowed our heads down.

Evidently, what Rumi’s friend had disclosed to him was not ordinary information, it was most probably some very important and unusual spiritual knowledge; remember, regarding this secret, Rumi feared ‘the sword of sharia’ (shining over his head). Also the fact that he has referred to this secret using “pearl” as a metaphor strongly hints that somehow it was related with Christianity. In the Gospel, what had Jesus Christ stated about not disclosing (protecting) ‘precious spiritual knowledge’?

Matthew 7: 6 “Do not throw your ‘pearls’ to swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

Besides the fact that “pearls” metaphorically represent ‘precious spiritual knowledge’; “and then turn and tear you to pieces” and the potential threat of “the sword of sharia’” are synonymous. Since it was not easy for Muslims to come to terms with Christian doctrines in the 13th Century, it was not possible for Rumi to reveal the content of this secret at his time. He knew with certainty that any attempt would be futile and also endanger his life. When we ponder on the identity of this friend who had given him ‘pearls’, the first name that comes to mind –since he was a more prominent figure in Rumi’s life– is Shams-e Tabrizi. But somehow I am not convinced Shams had a deep interest in Christianity and that he had imparted Rumi some specific knowledge (secret) related with Christ and Christianity. So the ‘friend’ in question must have been someone else. It is very likely that an unprejudiced, friendly and modest person like Rumi had a friend (or friends) among Christian priests and monks. As a matter of fact he has often mentioned meditation methods of Christian monks in his verses. Since Rumi had already studied the Gospel and was knowledgeable about its content and that he spoke Greek fluently, I suggest that he had dialogs with a certain Christian priest (or a monk) who had shared with Rumi what he knew (his ‘pearls’); and after the deeper meanings of the Gospel were revealed to him, Rumi was overwhelmed by what he had heard. I believe the content of this profound secret had greatly affected the shaping of his soul and spiritual constitution and it also helped him form a permanent understanding which transcended the rigid frames of religious beliefs (and other biased opinions) and enabled him to embrace every other human lovingly without reservations. In this sense, what Rumi has stated in these two verses is noteworthy:

If a day won’t come when the monuments to institutionalized religions lie in ruin,

Then my beloved, then we are really in trouble.

If you want to reach the ‘holy sky’ [the spiritual realm]

You should talk to Jesus, otherwise don’t try to climb up the ‘green dome’.

Symbolically used, “the green dome” means ‘the dome of a mosque’. At those times, the domes of mosques were often covered with green ornamental tiles or painted green. So, the symbolical meaning of “climbing up the green dome to reach the holy sky” is; ‘to do the formal Islamic religious practices and prayers hoping that one is accepted to the paradise (described in the Qur’an). Rumi is actually saying: ‘If you want to reach the spiritual realm, your formal religious practices won’t get you too far; for, to be able to make real spiritual progress, you should get to know Jesus (Christ) and focus on having a spiritual relationship with Him. There are many other poems by Rumi in which one can trace ‘Christian thought’, as we shall see in further sections.

Let us try to imagine the dilemma Rumi was facing; on the one hand he was living among Islamic folk and knew very well their frame of belief; and on the other hand, being very impressed by this newly acquired knowledge, he inevitably made a new evaluation of Christianity and had gradually become conscious of the sublime ‘Christ Being’. When people who were close to Rumi heard him mention ‘love of God’, they must have thought that he meant it in an Islamic sense (and even now, people are most probably under this impression). But I believe his ‘love of God’ was actually ‘love of Christ’ although it may not have been so at the beginning (before he got acquainted with certain secrets); and as he became more conscious of Christ, he combined this new concept with the spiritual concepts he previously had.

Christian thought in Classical Persian poetry

However, there is one more point we need to mention concerning Rumi’s awareness of ‘Christian thought’. To be able to understand what encouraged Rumi to delve into Christian teachings, we need to consider yet another factor which probably acted as a confirmation of his awesome realizations. For this reason, let us take a brief look into ‘Christian thought in Persian poetry.’ Actually Jesus (Christ) and Christianity is a vast subject covering a long duration of the history of Persia. Consequentially, during this time some Persian poets were influenced by Christianity in Persia, thus, there were classical poets who actually mention the name of Jesus in their poems. We must realize that a great deal of their information came from the Qur’an and other Islamic sources. But of course, they had also Christian contacts, namely the monasteries of that time and prevalent stories about Jesus. [However, it should be stated that the figure of ‘Jesus’ depicted in the Qur’an is not exactly the same as the image of ‘Christ Jesus’ radiating from the Gospel.]

It is known that a translation of the New Testament into Arabic was made in the 9th century and also some parts of it were translated into Persian. Therefore, the New Testament was available for these Persian poets since it is very likely that most of them knew Arabic. (But let us recall Rumi knew Greek fluently, so he had direct access to the original Greek Gospel.) Among these Persian poets who mention Jesus in their poems was Firdausi (940 – 1020):

These tales, which relate to the monarchs of old,

In volumes of elegant verse I have told.

The men of renown, and of prowess and fame,

Whose’ deeds are recorded herein name by name,

Time swept them aside, and death stilled heart and brain,

But here in my verses they live once again.

Like Jesus, whose voice called the dead back to life.

Another classical Persian poet who has mentioned the name Jesus in one of his poems is Nasser Khossrow (11th century.)

Account him no man, who is faithless and false,

Though Adam as father he claim;

Though Mary his mother be, non-ranks with Jesus,

Whose name is above every name.

Ghazzali (1058 – 1111) who is known in West by the name ‘Algazel’ was also a great Sufi mystic who has a lot of Christianity in his poems. In his celebrated Work ‘Ehya Uloom-el Din, Ghazzali attributes many sayings to Jesus, some of which are obviously from the Gospels and some are from other sources. After Rumi’s death (1273), there came other Persian poets like Mahmoud Shabistary and Hafiz, who have also mentioned the name Jesus in their poems. Since Rumi was also a Poet and a well-educated scholar, it is very likely that he knew about the existence of these Persian poets and perhaps even knew in which style they wrote. So, we can deduce Rumi was also influenced by them, but only to a certain extent, for he had his own sources and as we examine the contents of Rumi’s verses, we can see that he certainly knew quite a lot about Christianity[11]; for that reason, he didn’t need to obtain more information from other poets. Therefore, it can be said, existence of these poets –who had also shown interest in Jesus and Christianity–, must have helped Rumi conclude that it is not so unusual for a Muslim poet to be interested in Christianity and feel a spiritual closeness to Jesus.

Of course it is not possible to identify each influence which has led Rumi to find out more about Jesus Christ and Christianity, but obviously, a culmination of all these influences must have prepared him to allow “Christ consciousness” unfold in his soul. It is noteworthy that the first verse of one of the poems of Rumi is placed over the doorways of most churches in Iran:

The house of Jesus was the banquet of men of heart.

0 afflicted one, quit not this door.

From all sides the people ever thronged,

Many blind, lame and afflicted halt 

At the door of the house of Jesus at dawn.

Verses from Rumi’s Divan-e Kabir   

What Rumi had learned about ‘Christ Jesus’ (and what Christianity actually signified) was so overwhelming that although there was a danger involved, he could not help touching upon this secret in some of his verses. But rather than giving lengthy explanations about the content of this ‘secret’, he sometimes used symbols, metaphors, gave some hints and made allusions. In his verses, Rumi did not refer to Him as Christ but as Jesus or Messiah, for the Greek name ‘Hristos’ (Christos) –used by Christians living in Anatolia– could have drawn unnecessary attention. Besides, the name “Christ” is not mentioned in the original Arabic Qur’an, only the names ‘Jesus’ and ‘Messiah’ exists. But since Rumi did not use the name Christ –though he evidently knew what this name signified– we can deduce he found it necessary to be on the safe side.

Furthermore, although he often used the name Jesus or Messiah–being a poet with rich imagination–Rumi has thought of some special names which he used when he referred to Christ. This may have also provided some additional protection against any threat which could have come from his surroundings; but looking at the intrinsic meanings radiating from these names, I would say this was not the sole reason why he used them. I believe this had more to do with his feelings and creative writing style. These are some of the names he had conceived:

Dawn Breeze; Sovereign; Sovereign of Sovereigns; Most Exalted Sovereign; the Beloved; Divine Light; Hope; Healer; The Remedy; the Key.

Other than these, when referring to the Christ Being, he sometimes used, the term “Word”. Whereas the deeper spiritual meaning of the “Word” was known among the Christians in the 13th Century, it is most probable that adherents of Islam did not have a clear concept regarding what this esoteric term signified.

When we read Rumi’s verses for the first time, we might think his words are not conveying much. His poems may even sound like a riddle sometimes. But it would do him justice if we would consider two significant points. Firstly, Rumi didn’t have any other choice but to conceal the profound meanings, so he often spoke metaphorically and only hinted at hidden meanings.  And secondly, Rumi belonged to the 13th Century; this was the epoch of 4th Post Atlantean civilization – “Greek and Latin (Roman) epoch”.  To be able to bring more clarity to the latter, it is necessary to refer to explanations elucidated by anthroposophical studies (wisdom)[12]. During this stage of human evolution (the 4th Post Atlantean civilization), man’s ‘Intellectual soul’ (i.e. the intellectual faculties) was still going through its development and the development of man’s “Consciousness soul” had not yet begun. When we take this information into consideration, it will become apparent that it was not possible for Rumi to go into more details concerning the esoteric aspect of Christianity. In contrast, the detailed anthroposophical revelations (regarding this matter) had come at a later time (at the beginning of the 20th century) after the development of man’s “Consciousness soul” begun. In other words, the way Rumi articulated his verses regarding Jesus Christ is more in accord with the “epoch of Greek and Latin (Roman)”, for he had selected his words under the influence of that particular epoch. Therefore, it is necessary to point out that these factors had an influence on how Rumi’s verses were shaped and how he expressed himself in his poetry. Nevertheless, ‘anthroposophical wisdom’ might be helpful in shedding some light on Rumi’s verses. The verses below –in which Rumi has touched upon certain secrets connected to the ‘Christ Mystery’– are selected from “Divan-e Kabir.”

When one leaves all the colours behind and enters the earthenware [pot] of Jesus,

God’s colour shall appear.

From then onwards, God can do what He Wills [From then onwards God’s Will shall manifest].[13]

Rumi indicates that ‘Jesus’ (Christ) is related to ‘God’ and that divine-qualities are inherent in Him. And goes on explaining; ‘as one stops being identified with everything that is worldly (i.e., transcends diverse influences flowing from the material world), and let his soul imbued by Jesus Christ’ (by the divine quality He has), then one will also be able to achieve divine-Spiritual qualities (God’s colour shall appear) and as a consequence, ‘God’ shall be able to act through this person. And according to Rumi, Jesus is the mediator of this process.

Bring manna from the sky like the Messiah,

And make humans give up the ordinary bread and soup.

In this verse, Rumi draws attention to the fact that the Messiah is a bringer of ‘manna’[14] (spiritual food) and that one ought to give more emphasis on taking in this spiritual food (spiritual truths) which comes from the divine-Spiritual World and not just live on ordinary food (bread and soup) which is originated from the physical world.

In the following two verses, Rumi refers to the incident (which takes place in all four Gospels), in which Jesus had asked the Apostles to bring Him a donkey to ride when they drew near to Jerusalem. It seems, initially Rumi had some difficulty to understand why an exalted spiritual Being (who came from the divine-spiritual world) did not ride on a horse (which was known to be more suitable for a person of royal origin) but rode on a donkey. But in the next verse[15], we can see he has realized that this Spiritual Being had a ‘human aspect’ and He rode on a donkey out of His profound modesty (also, as stated in the Gospels: ‘so that the scriptures would be fulfilled.’)

My Sovereign, why did you ride on a donkey?

You are the Sovereign of Sovereigns,

Not a donkey’s back but riding horses is worthy of you.

 

Child, Jesus sat on a donkey for humility’s sake,

How else should theDawn Breeze’ ride on the back of a donkey?

In the next verse, we can see that Rumi was not very tolerant with persons who were disturbed by the fact that Jesus (Christ) had once walked upon this earth and that His presence was still felt. Rumi did not hesitate to show his disapproval towards the ones who did not have sympathy or respect for Him. He surely knew that it could not be expected from Muslims to venerate Jesus as much as they venerated the Prophet Muhammad, for Jesus was not the prophet of Muslim religion. But since Jesus was acknowledged in several verses of the Qur’an as a chosen prophet of Allah, Rumi must have thought at least some degree of respect should be shown. [Of course, this does not mean to say that all Muslims had antipathies towards Jesus in Rumi’s time since some of them were cognisant that in some koranic verses Jesus was acknowledged and revered as a former prophet of Allah. But obviously, there must have been some exceptions which prompted Rumi to write such a verse.]

May hundred dogs piss on the beard of the ill-willed ignorant one,

Who is jealous of Jesus and is in a bad state because of His presence.

Poems which reflect Rumi’s deep insight of ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus’

Who is He? Who is this who came from God

And has entered the circle of human beings?

He is the Light of God that came from God.

In this verse, Rumi approaches the mystery surrounding Christ’s identity by asking questions. Then, by saying “who came from God”, Rumi elucidates Christ is originally a divine being from the spiritual spheres and that He has come to Earth from the divine-Spiritual World (“from God”). Rumi also draws attention to the fact that ‘this divine-Being’ had once lived among human beings (“entered the circle of human beings”). We can clearly see Rumi had no doubts about the true identity of Christ and the place He originally came from.

In the next verse, Rumi draws attention to the extraordinary quality and capability of this ‘divine Being’ (reflected in His miracles) by saying, “He is capable of reviving the dead and opens the eyes of anyone born blind.”[16] Rumi also indicates, more endeavour is necessary to be able to progress spiritually and be worthy of receiving such blessings from this ‘divine-Healer’.

Dear friends, make more progress and more effort,

Such a ‘Healer’ has come to the world that

He is able to revive the dead,

And opens the eyes of anyone born blind.

In the following verse, Rumi’s initial words express certain spiritual truths almost in an anthroposophical sense. “O, the One who bestows eternal life” reminds us of the fine ‘spiritual ether’ –’The Word’, which is even finer than the ‘sound ether’. This ether is the source of life; it is vibrant, weaving life. The Christ Being, –who came from this region– had brought this cosmic power of ‘life’ with Him (e.g. this fact can be found in Christ’s declaration: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”] Also, the way Rumi mentions “eternal life” reminds us of Christ’s ‘promise of eternal life’.

O, the One who bestows eternal life,

O, the One who bestows endless grace,

You have indeed provided us a strong trench against the arrow of death.

It is indeed through His love and endless grace that humanity received the help they needed in order to be saved from this Earthly grave. In his “Studies of the New Testament”, Valentine Tomberg[17] speaks about death’s power on Earth: “But the karma of Earth is Death. Death is the only reality to be found in that which is purely Earthly. In the fields of Death is everything sown and at first it is Death who reaps it all. He who really knows this cannot feel otherwise than that the Earth is one great grave.

In this verse, speaking metaphorically, Rumi points to the fact that it was the Christ Being who had brought the necessary impulse and the spiritual power (“provided us a strong trench”) to protect and save mankind from the “arrow of death” – which is the inevitable consequence of man’s “Fall from heaven”. In terms of Christian concepts, Rumi is actually speaking of “salvation through Jesus Christ.”

When ‘the door’ was totally closed and locked,

That most exalted Sovereign came,

Wearing the human body as a garment.

In this verse, Rumi draws attention to the grave situation of mankind at the era when the Christ Being (most exalted Sovereign) entered the physical world. Again, his words are very similar to anthroposophical elucidations. As R. Steiner had often indicated, in the epoch[18] when the Christ Being incarnated on earth, mankind’s connection with the divine-Spiritual World was cut off and the door to this world was totally closed. Also, I would like to emphasize Rumi’s choice of words, “wearing the human body as a garment” to express ‘how Christ manifested in the physical body of Jesus’ is quite impressive and precise, as concepts like incarnation or reincarnation were not known or were not accepted as spiritual facts in those times. This clearly shows that he was acquainted with the concept of the incarnation of a divine Being.

He made His appearance via Mary,

But as a matter of fact,

‘That Divine Light’ which drew Jesus up to the sky has arrived.

We can see that Rumi has made a clear distinction between the Earthly part and the divine Part of ‘Jesus Christ’. According to him, Mary’s contribution was the physical body of Jesus, which provided a vehicle for the divine-Spiritual Part (the Christ) so that Christ could come to the world and accomplish His Earthly Mission. Actually, when Rumi speaks of ‘that Divine Light’ (which has arrived) he is actually referring to “Christ’s Advent”. According to Rumi, it was this ‘divine-Light’ which drew Jesus (the Earthly part) up to the divine-Spiritual World. However, by saying “which pulled up Jesus to the sky”, Rumi does not mean the physical body of Jesus, he is referring to the event of Ascension; Ascension of the Resurrected Jesus Christ.

In this verse Rumi is referring to the Exousiai[19] – the Elohim[20] (the Spirits of Form):

He himself has ‘no form’ but He is engaged in making forms

My soul, you are not able to give up your identification with your form – your physical shape

For you are not of ‘His kind’.

Apparently, Rumi also knew Christ Being originally came from the ranks of the ‘Exousiai’ (the Spirits of Form); and he puts emphasis on the fact that this spiritual-Being is a Creator from the divine-Spiritual World (“but He is engaged in making forms”). When Rumi mentions ‘he is not able to give up his identification with his earthly form’, he is actually referring to his own struggle of annihilating his ego (‘the self’) which is inevitably identified with the ‘physical form of the human being’. According to Rumi, if his ego’s identification with ‘the human form’ totally ceases, then, he will be more closely related to ‘the Formless’ – to the One who creates these forms (who is actually the Christ).

My dear soul, don’t lose your hope,

‘Hope’ has appeared,

‘The Hope’[21] of all souls has come from the Spiritual World.

In this poem, Rumi is indicating that a “spiritual being” (Hope) has appeared on Earth and that this being is the ‘Hope’ of all humanity. And he goes on saying; ‘for this reason, though humanity may seem to be in a grave situation (on Earth), we should never lose hope of redemption’.

O, the chronic illness and suffering,

Thank goodness that ‘the remedy’ has come

O, the closed and locked up door, open up, ‘the key’ has arrived.

In his lectures, Rudolf Steiner had often explained that ‘illness’ and ‘death’ had gradually set into the physical body of man since the event of “Fall from heaven”. In other words, after man was expelled from Garden of Eden, mankind steadily got more entangled in the nets of the material world and illness and death had set more permanently into the hardened physical body of man; and as a consequence, man became a mortal being. Therefore, the necessary compensation (the remedy) which would bring about the restoration and enable man to regain his health (and to be eventually victorious over death) had to come from the divine-Spiritual World (to balance this grave situation). Evidently, Rumi was cognizant of the consequences of the “Fall” and that Christ was the ‘remedy’ for the chronic illness and sufferings of humanity. Apparently, Rumi also knew this had happened because the door of the Spiritual World was totally closed and that Christ (‘the key’) had come to the ‘physical plane’ to reopen it (that is, to repair and re-establish mankind’s severed connection to the  spiritual world.)

The “Word”

In the next three verses, we can see that Rumi had a profound understanding of the “Word”.

Be silent – think that the ‘Word’ comes from the non- physical realm. (The Divine Spiritual Spheres)

When the ‘Word’ lifts up its veil and shows itself,

Then you will see

That the ‘Word’ is a manifestation of God.

If theWord’ comes from God’s Wisdom,

It accomplishes the spiritual processes of the Divine (The act of creation)

But if it comes from us human beings,

It causes quarrels and wars.

In the first poem, the way Rumi speaks about the “Word” (think that the ‘Word’ comes from the non-physical realm) is in harmony with what St. John had declared about the “Word” in the opening lines of his Gospel[22]. Apparently, the intrinsic meaning of the second poem is also in harmony with St. John’s Gospel. And in the third poem, Rumi has made a very clear differentiation between the qualities of ‘Divine Word’ and ‘human word’.  Rumi had indeed comprehended the deeper meanings inherent in the Gospel and became conscious of the profound ‘Mystery of Christ’. All these verses (concerning Jesus Christ and the Word) indicate beyond doubt that the ‘Mystery of Christ’ was ‘the secret’ Rumi wasn’t able to speak about.

There was reconciliation[23] between the Angels and the human beings,

When the Messiah raised to the spiritual realm.

In Islamic teachings, there is a controversy regarding Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and His death on the cross. Muslims–basing their argument on a verse in the Qur’an[24]–proclaim that Jesus did not die on the cross and that someone else who resembled Jesus was crucified in His place. (But probably there are some modern day Muslims who believe He was crucified.) In this verse, we can see Rumi had no doubts that ‘the Event of Crucifixion’ took place; besides he even knew about Christ’s Resurrection and the deeper meaning of the ‘Resurrection’. After the “Fall”, humanity had gradually lost its connection with the divine Spiritual World (withthe Angels’). Rumi indicates this connection was re-established when the Risen One ascended to the Spiritual World (to The Father) [25].

You are such an ‘infinite Sun’

That every minute particle of yours reveals something of the ‘Word’.

Are you the Light of ‘God’s Being’ or are you yourself God? I don’t know.

According to anthroposophical wisdom–before He came to the world–Christ was in the Sun Sphere[26], however, we cannot be certain if Rumi’s likening of Christ to the ‘Sun’ was uttered knowingly. Nevertheless, whether he chose these words knowingly or not, what Rumi indicated concerning Christ’s interrelation with the Sun[27] and His connection with the ‘Word’ are in harmony with that which is conveyed by anthroposophical studies. In the second part of this verse, Rumi draws attention to the divine aspect of Jesus Christ by asking an intricate question: ‘is Christ a Light that emanates from ‘God’s Being’ or is He God Himself? Then he humbly declares that he is not sure. But we can see, in both cases, Rumi has no doubts that Christ is related to the divine-Spiritual World and that a divine quality is inherent in Him.

Ahriman (Angru Manyu) and the devil

Say this to your foolish eyes:

Although you have received so much grace from ‘the Beloved’ (the Christ),

Why do you still behold the ways of the ordinary folk?

Why do you still keep turning around Ahriman?

Apparently, Rumi also knew (from Zoroastrian teachings) that Ahura Mazdao’s[28] opponent was Ahriman (Angru Manyu) and he was also cognizant of Ahriman’s capacity to lure mankind into forming a strong identification with the material world and divert their attention from the ‘spiritual aspect’ (the truth) of their existence on Earth. However, when we study his other verses, where he mentions ‘the devil’, we can see that Rumi has not differentiated between Lucifer[29] and Ahriman and their different cosmic missions. It seems, Rumi had conceived a single devil figure (in which Lucifer and Ahriman are blended into a ‘single devil figure’), who is a tempter and at the same time can influence man’s ‘will’ to do evil. Rumi is saying: ‘he shouldn’t be diverted by Ahriman, for he has received much grace from the ‘Beloved’ (Christ); instead, he should focus on blessings which came through ‘His grace’. And goes on expressing metaphorically: ‘his awareness is diverted because of the foolishness of his eyes’. In other words, the physical eyes perceive ‘things’ that belong to the material and fleeting world, but consequentially man foolishly desires these things he sees. According to Rumi, this is the way of the ordinary (unconscious) folk.

Looking at the Rumi’s words, we can see he was well informed about the ‘sentient soul’ (nefs)[30] and its role. The expression, “keep turning around Ahriman” may have been inspired upon seeing a swarm of moth which–being attracted by its light–keep turning around a lantern. Rumi means; as the moth does this act quite unconsciously, mankind is also attracted by the illusory material world set-up created by Ahriman and–being motivated by desires and ambitions–is involved in this set-up in an unconscious way.

In another verse, Rumi is certain Jesus (Christ) has the power to oppose the devil. It is noteworthy that he sees Jesus (Christ) as the opponent of the devil.

Where is ‘Jesus’ to be found to draw a dagger against the devil

Who has done much evil?

Rumi has composed the next verse in a question form, but there is no doubt that at the same time he knew the answer. In this verse, he refers to the incident when Hebrew folk got lost in the desert but they were saved by following a column of cloud which guided them. According to the anthroposophical studies, it was actually the ‘Christ Being’[31] who had guided the Hebrews in the desert by being active in the column of cloud.[32] At that time, Christ was yet approaching the Earth Sphere, for that reason, before He manifested in the physical body of Jesus, He could only show Himself in ‘the elements’.

Oh, folk of Moses, we also got lost in the desert like you,

How did you manage to find the way and got saved?

Don’t hide it; tell us, so that we also know.

By referring to the Biblical story in which Moses and Hebrews found themselves in a dire situation while they were crossing the desert, Rumi is indirectly saying; ‘he and his companions who are in a spiritual journey also feel lost and are in need of guidance and help’ (in a spiritual sense); so, since they are in a similar situation, Rumi wonders if Christ would consider being their guide also.

Conclusion

Scattered among his work, there are many other verses in which Rumi had referred to Jesus Christ and had touched upon different aspects of this Mystery which he confronted. The ones presented in this article are sufficient to show that Rumi’s comprehension of the ‘Christ Mystery’ was quite astonishing and they also reveal what was hidden deep inside this Sufi mystic’s soul. When Rumi depicts Christ as the Healer; God’s Colour; that Divine Light; the One who bestows eternal life; the Key; Light of God; the Remedy and the Hope of all souls, his selection of symbolic names actually indicate his insight of the Christian concept of the “Saviour” and the “Redeemer”.

It is also interesting to see that ‘Ahura Mazdao’, who was venerated by Zoroastrians (and whom Rumi had heard of in Balkh when he was a child) had many years later revealed Himself as ‘Christ’ to him in Konya; and that through the grace bestowed by Christ, Rumi was able to acquire a deep understanding of ‘the Mystery’ surrounding this sublime divine-Spiritual Being.

These explanations may help us envisage how Rumi’s personality (soul) had been shaped under diverse spiritual influences and realize that the most powerful influence that had affected him (which also changed his soul and spiritual constitution) was the ‘Christ Impulse’ – the Impulse which Christ had brought to the world for humanity.

We may wonder if Rumi was enlightened–by way of Sufi methods–before he died. There are many who believe he had attained the state of enlightenment he was striving for. Perhaps what these people presume is true. Nevertheless, we cannot know for sure if his ego (“I”) was obliterated and if, as a result, he merged with the “infinite ocean of the Divine”. But this much can be said for sure; when the immense content of the “Mystery of Christ” begun to unfold in Rumi’s soul, he definitely had a ‘spiritual illumination’ in a different sense. I believe he had comprehended the meaning of “love your God” and the meaning of “love thy neighbour” (which are the most important commandments of Christ) to a great extent, thus we can imagine such an achievement had brought about a certain illumination and a deep understanding.

We may also wonder if Rumi had secretly become a Christian. Rumi was originally brought up as a Muslim and we can see that he has also venerated the Prophet Muhammad in many of his poems; so there is no substantial evidence which indicates that his connection with his original religion was severed. Therefore, it could be stated that he did not secretly become a Christian and didn’t adhere to any of the Christian sects, for he did not have to become an adherent of another religion to be able to attain an understanding of profound spiritual facts. As we recall, in one of his poems Rumi had said: “If a day won’t come when the monuments to institutionalized religions lie in ruin, then my beloved, then we are really in trouble.” Apparently, his words refer to every institutionalized religion. Besides, to be able to comprehend spiritual truths, one needs to be open minded, unprejudiced and courageous; and most important of all, to cultivate ‘spiritualized love’ within one’s soul (“be a lover, a lover, choose love that you might be a chosen one.”) Undoubtedly, Rumi had all these qualities and he did not allow religious beliefs and opinions obstruct the inflow of spiritual inspirations. Evidently, these ‘profound truths’ were revealed to him because his spiritual understanding had transcended the frames of established religions. We can deduce, Rumi must have pondered deeply on the meaning of Christ’s declaration:

“Then you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 32).

When Rumi passed away in 1273, people from every religion joined in at his funeral which went on for several hours. Actually, such a big gathering of varied faiths had not happened before. And everyone, even the Jewish and Christian peoples of the city mourned for him. Evidently, as Rumi loved his neighbours, his neighbours had also loved and revered this humble Sufi mystic.

As we delve into Rumi’s unknown secret, one sincerely wishes that he finds “the Beloved” again in his future incarnation. I believe, somehow, “the Beloved” will make sure Rumi succeeds in finding Him again.

[1] However, suprisingly, the famous verse “Come; come again, whoever you are, come! / Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come! / Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times. / Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are” which is widely known by many and is assumed to be uttered by Rumi does not actually belong to him. Sometime in the past it was attributed to Rumi by a scribe (who belonged to the Sufi Order) by mistake and as a consequence, ever since that time a great number of people believed that this verse was uttered by Rumi. Whereas, it was written by a poet named Ebu Said-i Ebu’l-Hayr and these lines can be found in Ebu Said’s work titled “Rubaiyyat-ı Baba Efdal-i Kasani” (under number 7 rubai).

[2] “Divan-e Kabir” is a collection of lyric poems that contains more than 40.000 verses (ghazals) written in new Persian     language – Farsi. (But some of them are in Arabic.) Rumi wrote these poems in several different styles of Eastern-Islamic poetry.

[3] It is considered that the name Zariaspa may drive from the important Zoroastrian fire temple ‘Azar-i-asp’

[4] It is noteworthy that Zoroastrianism was the court religion of three Persian empires (the Archaemenian, the Parthian and the Sassanian empires).

[5] Zoroaster’s teachings survive in hymns known as Gattas.

[6] Unfortunately, this lasted until the Mongol invasion which came in 1220. Mongols completely destroyed Balkh. Evidently, Bahaeddin Veled and his family had managed to escape just in time. If they had stayed in Balkh, we probably wouldn’t have had any Rumi poems to read or no whirling Dervishes to watch!

[7] Although Shams had imparted Rumi some mystical teachings, their relationship cannot be described as the relationship of a master and disciple, rather, it was a friendship based on reciprocal exchange of knowledge. As Rumi highly valued Shams, Shams also highly esteemed Rumi. One of the things Shams had said about Rumi was: “The face of the Sun is turned towards Mevlana for Mevlana’s face is also turned towards the Sun.”

[8] According to Rudolf Steiner’s ‘anthroposophical wisdom’, the human soul consists of three parts: the ‘Sentient soul’, the ‘Intellectual (or Mind) soul’ and ‘Consciousness soul’. ‘Sentient soul’ is–from a spiritual aspect–the most undeveloped part of the human soul; so ‘nefs’ is actually the ‘Sentient soul” which connects man to the physical world. Anthroposophical wisdom’s aim is not to ‘annihilate the Sentient soul’, for man needs his Sentient soul to be properly connected to the physical world; instead,  the necessity of transformation and spiritualization of the Sentient soul is underlined (as a meditation). More information about anthroposophy can be obtained from these links:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy and http://www.rsarchive.org/ and to find out more about R. Steiner’s books, http://www.rudolfsteinerpress.com/  and https://steiner.presswarehouse.com/Books/Features.aspx

[9] It is known that from the early stages of Christianity many Persians had accepted this new religion. Christianity arrived in Persia during the Parthian (Empire) period. In the book of ‘Acts of the Apostles’ (chap.2: 9) it is mentioned that on the day of Pentecost there were at Jerusalem “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia”. Since then, there has been a continuous presence of Christians in Persia but Christianity has always remained as a minority religion. (At the beginning, the Persian Church was of Syrian origin).

[10] Iconium was a Roman colony at the time when St. Paul preached there. It is also known that the town was destroyed several times by Arab invaders in the 7th and 9th centuries.

[11] If we have to make a comparison, it can be said Rumi definitely knew more than the other Persian poets regarding this subject.

[12] A brief explanation might be helpful for those who are not familiar with anthroposophical studies. According to the anthroposophical wisdom expounded by Rudolf Steiner; humanity is going through a spiritual evolution which involves 7 main evolutionary periods (stages). The 4th stage of these 7 evolutionary periods is the “World evolution”. The ‘World evolution’ also incorporates 7 main epochs and the “Atlantean epoch” was the 4th   main epoch of the ‘World evolution’. After the ‘Atlantean epoch’ ended, the 5th main epoch (which comprises 7 post-Atlantean civilizations) begun. And between 747 BC and 1413 AD was the era of the 4th post-Atlantean civilization – the Greek and Latin (Roman) civilization (which lasted 2160 years). During this time, man’s intellectual faculties like ‘logic’ and ‘rational thinking’ had developed. After 1413 AD, the 5th post-Atlantean civilization begun (this coincided with the Renaissance). From this time onwards, the development of man’s ‘Consciousness soul’ (development of man’s faculty of consciousness) begun. We are still living in the 5th post-Atlantean epoch which will also last 2160 years.

[13] In this verse, we can see that Rumi has combined his concept of ‘enlightenment’ (which he had previously comprehended in the context of Khurasanian tradition) with his newly acquired knowledge concerning the Christ and Christianity.

[14] In the Bible, ‘manna’ is the ‘spiritual food’ which was given to the Hebrews by God Yahweh.

[15] These two verses and the others presented in this article do not necessarily follow each other in this sequence in Rumi’s Divan-e Kabir.

[16] Needless to say, Rumi attributes these miracles to Jesus Christ (the ‘Divine Healer’.)

[17] Valentin Tomberg (1900 – 1973) another important teacher of anthroposophy (and an initiate) who came after Rudolf Steiner and gave many lectures over the years. He made a great contribution to anthroposophical wisdom by imparting invaluable knowledge concerning Christ, His Second Coming and “Divine Sophia” in his lectures and works.

[18] In the 4th post-Atlantean epoch.

[19] According to anthroposophical studies, The Exousiai’ are the form Spirits who are engaged in creating all kinds of physical forms (mineral, plant, animal and human forms) and that the seven Elohim are from this rank. Anthroposophy also elucidates; “the Exousiai” belong to the second divine-Spiritual Hierarchy and that these Greek names of the Beings of the divine-Hierarchy were expounded by Dionysius the Areopagite (who was a Christian theologian and philosopher).

[20] ‘The Elohim’ are mentioned in the Old Testament. (The 7 Elohim are the leaders of the Exousiai).

[21] When he used the word ‘hope’ metaphorically, Rumi may have been inspired by what St. Paul had declared in his Epistle to Romans, Chap.15: 13 Now may the ‘Lord of hope’ fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Also in his First Epistle to Timothy, Chap. 1: 1, St. Paul had stated: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our ‘hope’.

[22]St. John’s Gospel: When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be…

[23] Regarding ‘reconciliation through Jesus Christ’; Rumi may have been inspired by what St. Paul had stated in his “Epistle to Romans” Chap. 5:11 And not only this, but we exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

[24] Surah – 4 (Nisa) verse 157: And for their [Jews] saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.

[It is also necessary to mention the following verse (158) in the Qur’an]. 158: Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.

[25] What Christ’s cosmic mission was and what had He achieved (for humanity) by His Resurrection and Ascension can be found in detail in the anthroposophical studies.

[26] The ‘Sun Sphere’ denotes the ‘spiritual aspect’ of the Sun.

[27] Let us recall, Zoroaster had proclaimed that ‘Ahura Mazdao’ was related to the Sun Sphere.

[28] As it was previously mentioned, Zoroaster had proclaimed that Ahura Mazdao was going to come to the world in the far future. In accordance with this statement, anthroposophical wisdom reveals, ‘Ahura Mazdao’ was actually ‘the Christ’ and that He eventually manifested in the world – in the physical body of Jesus.

[29] Anthroposophical studies elucidate, Lucifer is a spiritual being and his name means the ‘light bringer’ and that Lucifer is a fallen angel (he is also known as ‘the devil’); and being “the tempter”, he has a very strong influence on mankind (on the soul of every human being).

[30] According to anthroposophical studies, ‘Sentient soul’ (nefs) is the seat of worldly desires and ambitions.

[31] Being one of the Elohim, God Yahweh was a part of the “Fullness (Pleroma) of the Christ” and He was acting on behalf of the Christ when He became ‘the God of the Hebrews’.

[32] The column of cloud represented the ‘air element’. Similarly, what Moses had encountered as the ‘burning bush’ was the ‘fire element’ and in the Biblical miracle, when the waters of the Red Sea parted so that the fleeing Hebrew folk could cross, it was again the Christ, being active in the ‘water element’.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s interesting. I don’t know if I would agree with you, but you do open up a depth to Rumi’s relationship to wider traditions. One thing though – you say you don’t think Shams would have told Rumi about Christianity. In the recorded discourses of Shams, he mentions having Christian and non-muslim friends who he would visit in Konya, and the muslims would tell him off for it! So Shams may well have had a good knowledge of Christianity and Christian spirituality.

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