Diamond Light
Newsletter of the Aquarian Age Community
2010 No. 1
Index | Back Issues
The Bridge of Beauty and Understanding
René Wadlow1
Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing
from the bank of Darkness to the side of Light
Nicholas Roerich

The United Nations General Assembly in resolution A/RES.62/90 has proclaimed the year 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures “to promote universal respect for, and observation and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities but also different ways of living together, value systems and traditions. Thus 2010 should provide real opportunities for dialogue among cultures. It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences and universities all over the globe. However, in themselves, such meetings are not dialogue and do not necessarily lead to rapprochement of cultures. There is a need to reach a deeper level. Reaching such deeper levels takes patience, tolerance, the ability to take a longer-range view, and creativity. Thus, we are pleased to present the creative efforts of individuals who have helped to create bridges of understanding among cultures.

I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem. I am not of the East, nor the West, nor the land, nor the sea… My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless. [Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273)]

Rumi, a poet and mystic of Persian culture, was born in what is today Afghanistan and died in what is now Turkey. He used the image of a person as the flute of the Spirit. Man is a flute for the breath of God — the instrument that the Spirit uses to express itself. The Spirit can use a flute of any quality. What is important is not the merit of the flute, but the strength of the wind of the Spirit. Thus, Rumi develops the idea of “grace” — the Divine can come to fill the lowest of vessels. The coming of the Spirit, the blending of the individual soul with the Universal Spirit, does not depend on the good actions or piety of the individual. Here Rumi echoes an earlier Sufi writer al Bistani who called upon the aspirant to “Be in the domain where neither good nor evil exists: both of them belong to the world of created things: in the presence of Unity, there is neither command nor prohibition.”

Yet there is a dual motion of the human soul. The first is to wait in silence to be filled with the Spirit coming from without — the image of the flute and the breath. The opposite image is that of the soul rising through effort to a higher stage of being. For this motion, Rumi uses the image of a ladder, the steps of the ladder being the stages of development and purification. As he writes in Diwani Shams Tabriz “A ladder stood whereby thou mightest aspire.” On the ladder, someone else has climbed first and serves as a guide. For Rumi, this guide was his teacher, friend and Spiritual Master to whom the verses are dedicated: Shams al-Din of Tabriz. The Diwan contains profound verses on the function of a spiritual master and the relation between master and disciple.

Little is known of Shams al-Din other than his having been the teacher of Rumi. He seems to have been part of a mystical tradition of Central Asia where influences of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Buddhism from China has been in contact with Islamic thought. The Silk Road from China to the Middle East brought many cultures into contact, and thinkers, especially mystics, were led to see the unity of experience behind the forms of practice. As Rumi wrote in his best known collection of verses, Mathnawi,“the lamps are different, but the Light is the same: it comes from Beyond. If thou keep looking at the lamp, thou art lost: for thence arises the appearance of number and plurality. Fix thy gaze upon the Light, and thou art delivered from the dualism inherent in the finite body…The Faithful are many, but their Faith is one; their bodies are numerous, but their soul is one.”

Rumi developed a form of combined mobile meditation, symbolism, and teaching, which became the basis of the Mevlevi dervishes, popularly called the whirling dervishes and the Mawlawi dervishes in the Arab countries. The participants enact the turning of the planets around the sun, a symbol of man linked to the center which is God—the source of life, but it is also an internalized turning of the body toward the soul, likewise the source of life. Rumi mapped out a system in which sound, motion and one-pointed concentration of thought would lead to an end of the personal self and union with the Higher Self. It is these deeper meanings and focus that will help humanity realize a true Rapprochement of Cultures.¨