2 I know not why the tie of love was so abruptly severed and the firm covenant of friendship broken. Did ever, God forbid, My devotion lessen or My sincere affection fail, that I came to be so neglected and forgotten? What fault didst thou observe in me That made thee cease thy tender care? Is it that poverty’s our lot And wealth and pageantry thy share?95
3 Or is it that a single arrow hath driven thee from the battle? Hast thou not heard that steadfastness is the prime requisite of the mystic path and the means of admittance to His holy Court? “They that say ‘Our Lord is God’, and continue steadfast in His way, upon them, verily, shall the angels descend.”96
4 Likewise He saith, “Be thou steadfast as thou hast been bidden.”97 It followeth that they that abide in the court of reunion must needs conduct themselves accordingly. I do as bidden and convey the message, Whether it give thee counsel or offence.98
5 Though I have received no reply to My letter, and it would be unbefitting, in the eyes of the wise, to express anew My devotion, yet this new love hath annulled and effaced all the old rules and ways. Tell us not the tale of Laylí, nor speak of Majnún’s woe— Thy love hath made the world forget the loves of long ago. When once thy name was on the tongue, it reached the lovers’ ears And set the speakers and the hearers dancing to and fro.99
7 I hear that thou hast journeyed to Tabríz and Tiflis to engage in debate and instruction, or hast set out for Sanandaj to scale the heights of knowledge.
8 O my eminent friend! They that seek to ascend to the heaven of mystic wayfaring are of four kinds only. I shall describe them in brief, that the signs and degrees of each may become plain and manifest to thee.
9 If the wayfarers be among them that seek after the sanctuary of the Desired One, this plane pertaineth to the self—but the self which is intended is “the Self of God that pervadeth all His laws”.101 In this station the self is not rejected but beloved; it is regarded with favour and is not to be shunned. Although at the beginning this plane is the realm of conflict, yet it endeth in the ascent to the throne of glory. As it hath been said: O Abraham of the Spirit and God’s Friend in this day! Slay! Slay these four thieving birds of prey!102 that after death the mystery of life may be unravelled.
11 This station hath myriad signs and countless tokens. Hence it is said: “We will surely show them Our signs in the world and within themselves, until it become plain to them that there is no God save Him.”104
12 One must, then, read the book of one’s own self, rather than the treatise of some grammarian. Wherefore He hath said, “Read thy Book: There needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day.”105
13 The story is told of a mystic knower who went on a journey with a learned grammarian for a companion. They came to the shore of the Sea of Grandeur. The knower, putting his trust in God, straightway flung himself into the waves, but the grammarian stood bewildered and lost in thoughts that were as words traced upon the water. The mystic called out to him, “Why dost thou not follow?” The grammarian answered, “O brother, what can I do? As I dare not advance, I must needs go back again.” Then the mystic cried, “Cast aside what thou hast learned from Síbavayh and Qawlavayh, from Ibn-i-Ḥájib and Ibn-i-Málik, and cross the water!”106 With renunciation, not with grammar’s rules, one must be armed: Be nothing, then, and cross this sea unharmed.107
15 If the wayfarers be among them that dwell in the court of the All-Praised, this is the station of the Intellect, which is known as the messenger of the realm of the body and the most great pillar. That which is intended, however, is the universal divine Intellect, whose sovereignty fostereth the growth of all things, and not every vain and feeble mind. Thus hath the wise Saná’í written: How can feeble reason embrace the Qur’án Or the spider snare a phoenix in its web?109 Wouldst thou that the mind not hold thee in its snare? Seize it and enrol it in the school of God instead!
16 On this plane, the traveller meeteth with many a trial and reverse. Now is he lifted up to heaven, now is he cast into the depths. As it hath been said: “Now Thou drawest me to the throne of the realms above, again Thou scorchest me in the fire of hell.” The hidden mystery of this station is divulged in the following blessed verse from the Súrih of the Cave: “And thou mightest have seen the sun when it arose, pass on the right of their cave, and when it set, leave them on the left, while they were in its spacious chamber. This is one of the signs of God. Guided indeed is he whom God guideth; but for him whom He misleadeth, thou shalt by no means find a guardian and guide.”110
17 If a soul could grasp the allusions that lie hid in this single verse, it would suffice him. Such indeed are those whom He hath extolled as “men whom neither merchandise nor traffic beguile from the remembrance of God”.111
18 This station is that of the true standard of knowledge and the final end of tests and trials. Nor is it needed, in this realm, to seek after knowledge, for He hath said concerning the guidance of wayfarers on this plane, “Fear ye God; God will teach you”,112 and again, “Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of whomsoever He willeth.”113
19 Wherefore, one must make ready the receptacle and become worthy of the descent of heavenly bestowals, that the all-sufficing Cup-Bearer may give one to drink of the wine of bounty from the crystal chalice of mercy. “For this let the striving strive!”114 And now do I say, “Verily, we are God’s, and to Him shall we return.”115
20 If the lovers be among them that abide within the precincts of the abode of the Lodestone of hearts, no soul may dwell on this kingly throne save the countenance of love. I am powerless to describe this station or to depict it in words. Love shunneth this world and that world too; In him are lunacies seventy-and-two. The minstrel of love harpeth this lay: Servitude enslaveth, lordship doth betray.116
22 In this station, neither the reign of the intellect is sufficient nor the rule of self. Thus one of the Prophets of God asked, “O my Lord, how shall I reach Thee?” And the answer came: “Leave thy self behind, and then approach Me.”
23 In the estimation of such souls, to be seated amidst the sandals by the door is the same as to abide at the place of honour, and in the path of the Beloved the retreats of earthly beauty differ not from the field of a battle waged.
24 The dwellers of this abode know not the destination, yet they spur on their chargers. They see naught in the Beloved but His very Self. They find all words of sense to be meaningless, and senseless words to be full of meaning. They cannot distinguish head from foot or one limb from another. To them the mirage is water itself and departure is the mystery of return. Wherefore hath it been said: The story of Thy beauty reached the hermit’s dell; Crazed, he sought the Tavern where the wine they buy and sell. The love of Thee hath levelled down the fort of patience; The pain of Thee hath firmly barred the gate of hope as well.118
25 In this station, both instruction and apprenticeship are assuredly of no avail: The lovers’ teacher is the Loved One’s beauty, His face their lesson and their only book. Learning of wonderment, of longing love their duty; Not on learned chapters and dull themes they look. The chains that bind them are His musky hair; The Cyclic Scheme, to them, is but to Him a stair.119
26 Here followeth a supplication to God—blessed and glorified be He: O Lord, O Thou Whose grace fulfilleth every need! To mention aught before Thee would be sin indeed. Allow this mote of knowledge hidden in my soul To free itself of lowly clay and reach its goal. And grant this drop of wisdom that Thou gavest me To be at last united with Thy mighty sea.120
27 Thus do I say: There is no power nor strength except in God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
28 If the mystic knowers be among them that have attained the beauty of the Beloved, this station is the throne of the inmost heart and the secret of divine guidance. This is the seat of the mystery “He doeth what He willeth, and ordaineth what He pleaseth.” Should all that are in heaven and on earth attempt to unravel this exalted allusion and subtle mystery, from now until the Day whereon the Trumpet shall sound, yet would they fail to comprehend even a letter thereof, for this is the station of God’s immutable decree and His foreordained mystery. Hence, when asked regarding this matter, He made reply: “It is a bottomless sea that none shall ever fathom.” And when the question was repeated, He answered: “It is the blackest of nights through which none can find his way.”121
29 Whoso comprehendeth this station will assuredly conceal it, and were he to reveal but the faintest trace thereof, they would assuredly hang him from the gallows. And yet, by God, were a true seeker to be found, I would divulge it to him; for He saith: “Love is a distinction never conferred upon a heart possessed by fear and dread.”122
30 In truth, the wayfarer who journeyeth unto God, who treadeth the snow-white Path and turneth towards the Crimson Pillar, will never reach his heavenly home unless his hands are empty of such worldly things as are cherished by men. “And he that feareth not God, God shall make him to fear all things; whereas all things fear him who feareth God.” Speak the Persian tongue, though the Arabian pleaseth more: Love indeed doth have a hundred other tongues in store.123
31 How sweet in this connection is the following couplet: Our hearts will be as open shells Should He the pearls of grace bestow; Our lives will ready targets be Were He to hurl the darts of woe.
32 And were it not contrary to the commandment of the Book, I would surely have bestowed a part of My possessions upon My would-be murderer, and given him to inherit Mine earthly goods, and rendered him a myriad thanks, and solaced Mine own eyes with the touch of his hand. But what can I do? Neither have I any wealth, nor hath the Lord of destiny so decreed.
33 Methinks at this moment I perceive the musk-scented fragrance of the garment of Há’ from the Joseph of Bahá; verily He seemeth near at hand, though ye may think Him far away.124 My soul doth sense the fragrant breath Of a well-beloved soul: The fragrance of that kindly friend Who’s my heart’s desire and goal. The duty of long years of love obey, And tell the tale of blissful days gone by, That land and sky may laugh aloud today, And it may gladden mind and heart and eye.125
34 This is the realm of pure awareness and utter self-effacement. Not even love can find a way to this plane, nor doth affection have a place therein. Wherefore is it said: “Love is a veil betwixt the lover and the beloved.” Here love becometh but an obstructing veil, and aught save the Friend but a curtain. Thus the wise Saná’í hath written: None may approach that well-belov’d Who harboreth his own desire; None may embrace that beauteous form Who’s burdened with his own attire. For this is the realm of God and is sanctified above every allusion of His creatures.
35 Abiding in the court of rapture, the dwellers of this mansion wield with utmost joy and gladness the sceptres of divinity and lordship; and, established upon the lofty seats of justice, they exert their rule and bestow upon every soul its due. Those who drink of this cup abide beneath the canopy of glory, above the throne of the Ancient of Days, and dwell upon the seat of grandeur beneath the tabernacle of majesty. These are they that “know neither sun nor piercing cold”.126
36 On this plane the highest heavens are neither opposed to, nor distinguished from, the lowly earth, for this is the realm of divine favours, not the arena of worldly contraries. Albeit at every moment a new condition be displayed, yet that condition is ever the same. Wherefore He saith in one instance, “Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing.”127 And in another He saith, “Verily, His ways differ every day.”128
37 This is the food whose savour changeth not and whose colour altereth not. Wert thou to partake thereof, thou wouldst assuredly recite the verse “I have turned my face to Him Who hath created the heavens and the earth, following the right religion and submissive before God. I am not one of those who add gods to God.”129 “And thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and of the earth, that he might be stablished in knowledge.”130 Wherefore, put thy hand into thy bosom, then stretch it forth with power, and behold, thou shalt find it a light unto all the world.
38 How clear this crystal water that the enraptured Cup-Bearer passeth round! How exquisite this pure wine that the intoxicated Beauty doth proffer! How pleasing this draught of joy that floweth from the Heavenly Cup! Well is it with him who drinketh thereof, and tasteth of its sweetness, and attaineth unto its knowledge. No more than this will I impart to thee: The riverbed can never hold the sea.131
39 For its mystery lieth hid in the storehouses of His inviolable protection and is laid up in the treasuries of His power. It is exalted above the highest essence of utterance and sanctified beyond the subtlest mode of explanation.
40 Astonishment here is highly prized, and utter poverty greatly cherished. Wherefore hath He said, “Poverty is My pride.”132 And again: “God hath a people beneath the canopy of grandeur, whom He hath concealed in the garment of poverty to exalt in rank.”133 These are they who see with His eyes and hear with His ears, as hath been recorded in the well-known tradition.134
41 Concerning this realm there is many a tradition and many a verse, whether of general or specific import, but two of these will suffice, that they may serve as a light for knowing hearts and bring delight to longing souls.
42 The first is His statement “O My servant! Obey Me, that I may make thee like unto Myself. For I say ‘Be’, and it is, and thou shalt say ‘Be’, and it shall be.” And the second: “O son of Adam! Seek fellowship with none until thou hast found Me, and whensoever thou shalt long for Me, thou shalt find Me nigh unto thee.”
44 I undertook to write this epistle some time ago in thy remembrance, and, since thy letter had not reached Me yet, I began with a few words of grievance and reproach. Now, thy new missive hath dispelled that feeling and hath caused Me to send thee this letter. To speak of My love for thine eminence is needless. “Sufficient witness is God unto us.”136
45 As for his eminence Shaykh Muḥammad—may God, the Exalted, bless him!—I shall confine Myself to the two following lines, which I request be delivered to him: I seek thy nearness, more desired than heaven in mine eyes; I see thy visage, fairer than the bowers of Paradise.
46 When I entrusted this message of love to My pen, it refused the burden and swooned away. Then, coming to itself, it spoke and said, “Glory be to Thee! To Thee do I turn in penitence, and I am the first of them that implore Thy pardon.”137 All praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds! Let us tell, some other day This parting hurt and woe; Let us write, some other way, Love’s secrets—better so. Leave blood and noise and all of these, And say no more of Shams-i-Tabríz.138 Peace be upon thee, and upon them who circle round thee and attain thy presence.
47 That which I had written ere this hath been eaten by the flies, so rich was the ink to their taste, even as Sa‘dí hath said: I write no more, beleaguered by the flies That my sweet words have drawn about the page.
48 And now the hand can write no more, and pleadeth that this is enough. Wherefore do I say: Far from the glory of my Lord, the All-Glorious, be that which His creatures affirm of Him!