Jalalud’Din Rumi, the 13th century Persian lawyer-divine and Sufi, widely considered literature’s greatest mystical poets, understood very well the uncontrollable and idiosyncratic impact of poetry. Yet one wonders if even he, for all his intuitive grasp of language, humanity and the cosmos foresaw the deep and diverse influence his own work would have on readers throughout the world seven centuries after his death-or the myriad meanings enthusiasts would draw from his sprawling and contradictory poems. In the Islamic world today, Rumi is read for much the same reasons he was revered during his life: for his excellence as a poet; for his rare ability to empathize with humans, animals and plants; for his personal refinement; and, above all else, for his flawless moral center and ability to direct others towards good conduct and union with Allah.
I went crazy last night, love ran into me and said:
‘I am coming, do not shout, do not tear your clothes, speak no more.’
‘O love!’ I said: ‘I am afraid of other things.’
‘There is nothing else’ it said: ‘speak no more.
I shall whisper hidden words into your ear;
You just nod in approval! except in secret speak no more!’
Translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz, ‘Reading Mystical Lyric.’
University of South Carolina Press, 1998.
St. Augustine’s, out-pouring of love and separation from Christ is equal to the longing of Rumi for Shams. Although, St. Augustine is well known within Christian circles, his writings are not as universally known or as appreciated as those of Rumi. Both wrote with intensity about their love, separation, suffering and longing for union with their spiritual masters.
The Confessions – St. Augustine
“Seek for yourself, O man; search for your true self. He who seeks shall find himself in God.”
In The Confessions, Saint Augustine addressed himself eloquently and passionately to the enduring spiritual questions that have stirred the minds and hearts of thoughtful men since time began. Written A.D. 397, The Confessions are a history of the young Augustine’s fierce struggle to overcome his profligate ways and achieve a life of spiritual grace.
The first ten books of the work relate the story of Augustine’s childhood in Numidia; his licentious and riotous youth and early manhood in Carthage, Rome, and Milan; his continuous struggle with evil; his attempts to find an anchor for his faith among the Manicheans and the Neoplatonists; the untiring efforts of his mother, Saint Monnica, to save him from self-destruction; and his ultimate conversion to the Christian faith at the age of thirty-two.
The last three books of The Confessions, unrelated to the preceding account of Saint Augustine’s early life, are an allegorical explanation of the Mosaic account of Creation. Throughout the work, the narrative, addressed to God, is interspersed with prayers, meditations, and instructions, many of which today are to be found in the liturgies of all sects of the Christian Church.
The Confessions constitutes perhaps the most moving diary ever recorded of of a soul’s journey to grace. Appearing midway in Saint Augustine’s prodigious body of theological writings, they stand among the most persuasive works of the sinner-turned-priest who was to exercise a greater influence on Christian thought than any of the other Church fathers.
— From the Collier Books edition
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
from The Confessions of Saint Augustine