Monday, December 29, 2014

Shamsuddin Hafiz, Ghazal 152

An exhalation of Your Beauty
   shone forth in pre-eternity;
then Love manifested itself,
   and set the whole world on fire.
Your Face appeared; the Angel
   saw it, but was without love.
Moved by jealousy, he caught fire
   and struck Adam’s heart.
From that flame, reason lit its lamp;
   a bolt of jealousy flashed
   and threw the world into chaos.
The pretentious one sought
   to witness the Mystery unveiled;
the hand of the Unseen came
   and struck the undeserving heart.
Others won a favorable destiny
   and a life of plenty;
my woeful heart received
   for its part the sorrow of love.
My exalted soul yearned
   for a glimpse of Your Chin;
my hand reached up and stroked
   the curls of Your Hair.
Hafiz wrote The Book of Your Love’s Joy
   on the day he cut off all ties
   that bring gladness to the heart.

[my translation]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

From Fariduddin ‘Attar’s Book of Secrets

O friend, if you awaken from your sleep
   you will savor the most marvelous joys;
though immersed in sorrow and pain,
   this I surely know: we will find joy, at last.
As there are thorns, there are also flowers.
   As there is illness, there is also a cure.
The cure has not yet become manifest;
   when the time has come, it will be revealed.
And our tale goes even further than this:
   though pain is our lot in this world,
that World – where we will find its cure –
   no tale may describe, no lot may apportion.
Without any lingering doubt I know
   that beyond this world we will find felicity.
For every affliction we have endured here,
   for every moment of pain and sorrow,
in that World we will receive a joy in return.
   Come! Let us not tarry on the way;
to know nothing of the World beyond
   this earthly realm we live in is a tragedy.
Why, O dervish, is your heart heavy,
   when such sublime joys lie ahead of you? 
The delights conferred in that World
   surpass all other joys in their exalted purity.
If today you found one atom of that joy,
   you would burn with yearning for the next.
The Eternal World is a realm of felicity
   of which this entire earthly realm is a sign.
There, is found the station of Prophets;
   the heart and faith, the soul and beatitude
are found there; all spirits reside there;
   and in that assembly, all houris are confidants.
If you aspire to that place I have described,
   detach yourself from ‘I’, and there you are.
If in this world you die to your self,
   you will touch the doorstep of that World.

[my translation]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Homewardbound

We who seek the Treasure
that can’t be found,
have we not once known
its place of splendor?
We who yearn for the heart’s breath
and the eye’s spark,
blinking a myriad eternal Nows –
ceaselessly giving life
to a forever dying world –
have we not drunk
from the source of that creek,
yes, the one that flows
from that mountain of a Dream?
We who seek the Treasure
that can’t be lost,
who yearn for its undying Memory,
for its Day without setting,
how would we bear
(dwelling in this narrow human nest)
to find this Treasure’s place?
How would this Bird ever conceive
of stretching its wings
to fly homewards to itself?
For this Bird was created
(on the Morning
of Eternity’s First Day)
with the joy of outbound wings,
that it may seek in sorrow
the one Treasure
that lies beyond all seeking.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ḥāfiẓ, Ghazal 46, ll. 1-7

A rose on the breast, wine at hand,
   a Beloved to my heart’s desire;
On a day such as this the Sultan
   of the world is but a slave to me.
Bring no candle to tonight’s gathering,
   for in this assembly of ours
   the Beloved’s face is a full moon!
Though wine is licit in our creed,
   it is illicit without Your face,
   O Cypress whose arms are roses!
I am all ears for the reed’s song,
   all ears for the harp’s melody.
I am all eyes for Your ruby lips,
   all eyes for the passing of the cup!
Spread no perfume in our assembly
   for each moment brings us
   the scent of the Beloved’s curls.
Speak not of the flavor of candy
   and sugar, for to me nothing
   tastes sweeter than Your lips.
Since the treasure of Your sorrow
   came to reside in my ruined heart,
I have always been found here,
   sitting in this tavern’s dusty corner.

[my translation]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Beloved’s Veil

I have loved Her
   through many veils,
until one morning
   She said to me:
“You will not know
   the sweetest joy
of sorrow for Me
   until the day you
can love Me as if
   you cannot lose Me.
Believe me, love.
   I can never be lost.”

“And yet, Love,
   how many times
have I lost You
   through the veils
I have so adored
   in place of You.
I can neither lose
   nor possess You.
And so in my love
   for lovely veils
I have so often
   lost trace of You.
Not because You
   had left me,
but only because
   had left You.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Life and Death

Tending to divisions is the work of death.

While life rejoices
in reconciling
contraries,
believing
possible
the most
impossible
friendships,
joining parts
in harmonious
wholes, moved by
her desire to resemble
the presence of that Oneness
which forever lives beyond life itself.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Who but the foolish lover

Who but the foolish lover
has dared endure
this painful wonder:
the awareness
of being from You,
while living apart from You;
this bittersweet
torment of yearning
for togetherness,
serenely poised
midway between
impossible union
and inescapable separation.

From the Divān of Hāfiẓ (2)

Ghazal 90, ll. 5-6

So that the army
of my sorrow for You
   does not ruin
   my heart’s kingdom,
I have send You
   as hostage
   my precious soul.
Come, O cup-bearer!
The voice of the Unseen
   has told me
   the good news:
“In the sorrow
you bear patiently
   I have sent
   you its remedy.

[my translation]

Monday, June 2, 2014

Broken

Really, O friend, what else do you expect,
smashing your heart against marble statues?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

You are the magic of sunrays

You are the magic
of sunrays
and I a speck
of dust
whirling for joy

I am dust

dull and gray
but when You smile
on me
I am a sun

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Love of Your Eloquence

by Jalāluddīn Maulānā Rūmī
   [13th century]

Your resplendent face
   has become my soul’s mirror;
Your Soul, and my soul:
   the two have become one.
O completely full Moon,
   the heart’s home is You!
Once, the intellect ruled
   as distinguished master; 
it is now Your servant,
   and the guard at Your door. 
Though water and clay
   have made me forgetful of You,
since that day when You said:
   “Am I not your Lord?”*
my soul has been drunk
   on the beauty of Your face.
Now the water is clear;
   the clay has settled
to the bottom of the pond.
   I have ceased saying:
“This is mine, that is yours.”
   Now, the Emperor of Rūm
has crushed the Ethiopians.**
   May the triumphal reign
of Your felicity endure forever!
   O You, whose cheek
is like the Moon! My lament
   is renewed without end –
for I have become veiled
   by the love of Your eloquence.

Ghazal no. 61, F-2243

[my translation]

[l. 11] Water and clay both belong to our body, which is the vehicle or instrument by which our eternal soul can exist on earth and experience life through the senses. At death, we leave both water and clay behind. In this sense, clay is our solid and opaque material body, and water our subtle and transparent energetic body. During existence on earth, our soul is perceiving existence through the body, both material and subtle together. When we become attached to material things, our subtle body becomes troubled and restless, mixed with the heaviness of materiality. Then in that state our soul cannot see clearly through its vehicle of embodiment. The soul becomes blinded by material existence, since the subtle body, which in itself is transparent, is made opaque by its mixture with materiality. But when one surrenders attachment to materiality (that is, when one stops clinging to things and thinking in terms of “This is mine, that is yours”), the material body (the clay) stops being agitated and settles to the bottom. Then the subtle body (the water) can flow more freely, and it recovers its natural transparency, and is then receptive to the divine light. By means of the transparency, fluidity and receptiveness of the subtle body, the soul can then behold God’s light through the frame of bodily existence on Earth, without being veiled by the opacity of the material body.

[l. 14] The Day of “Am I not?” (Alastu) refers to the Quranic story of Gods creation of humankind from Adam: And [remember, O Prophet,] when your Lord brought forth from the loins of the children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, [asking them:] Am I not your Lord? and they replied: Yes, we do bear witness. [That covenant was taken] lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, We were not aware of this (Quran 7:172). Rūmī is saying: ever since You showed Your Face to me, my soul has been in love with You, although this world (i.e. water and clay) has distracted me from you.

[l. 22] The Emperor of Rūm (Qayṣar-i Rūmī) is a symbol of the realized human, whose soul is turned towards God and ruled by Him, while the Ethiopians symbolize the human still ruled by desires and preoccupied with the material world, hence dark-faced. Rūm (Byzantium) was the name of the region where Rūmī lived (hence his nickname), in present-day Turkey.

[ll. 27-30] The closing lines suggest that Rūmīs painful longing (hence his lament) is never-ending because of his love for the Beloveds eloquence, in other words, for the beautiful things that God creates. Gods creativeness is subtly compared to the eloquent words that come out of the mouth of the poet. Rūmīs soul has been veiled by his love for Gods beautiful creation/words, and that is why love is endlessly painful. The Transcendent, formless God, is the real Beloved, but whenever the soul falls in love with His creations, because they carry a trace of Him and remind the soul of Him, the soul experiences a love mixed with sorrow. The veil is because the lover has mistaken his real object of love by falling in love with Gods trace in His creatures (His eloquence”), instead of Him. Shams of Tabriz, for instance, personifies Gods eloquence for Rūmī. It is God that Rūmī loved in Shams, but because Shams is not God, Shams became a veil on Rūmīs soul due to his attachment to Shams. When Shams disappeared without a trace, Rūmī was inconsolable due to his attachment to him, which caused him long-lasting sorrow. But God Himself, Rūmīs real Beloved, never went away.
There is no virtue in the form of the act without the soul of the act.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nothing in me

In the depths of me
   a tiny voice mutely speaks
words I only hear
   when you are with me:
“Nothing in me
   is worthy of your love.”
My eyes lie when they say 
   they saw you smile.
My soul lies when it says
   you’ve accepted me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Prose and Poetry

Prose is the act of saying; to denote on the line what is said on the line.

Poetry is the act of saying without saying; to evoke what is said between the lines, leaving on the side what is said on the line.

And life, nature, reality, is prosaic to whoever reads what is said on the line, and a poem to whoever reads what is said between the lines.

Yearning and Detachment

You open Your arms,
   beckoning me;
and I would embrace You,
   ah, forever!

But You made it so
   that as soon
as I open my aching arms
   to hold You,

You vanish from me.
   And so I hold
my peace, and stand within
   my stillness.

You open Your arms,
   beckoning me;
then You let me hold You
   without arms.

Friday, May 9, 2014

This Realm of Discord

This realm of discord
   will know of peace
only the absence of strife;
   this realm of clamor

will know of silence
   only the ending of speech:

but Your supreme peace
   vanquishes all strife,
and Your sublime silence
   enriches all speech.

Your Glance

Like a blade of sunlight,
   Your tender glance
transfixed my winter;
   from the open wound
my heart bled out
   and covered the grass
with the blossoms
   of an eternal spring.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remembrance

Sunlight
glistening on a lake;

~~*~*~~*~*~~*~~
my soul remembers
Your Face.

Gratitude and Surrender

Thank You, my Dearest,
   for all that is not missing,
and for all the blessings
   I do not know are not missing.
Make my heart content
   with what suffices me,
and place in me the hope
   for what You hope for me.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Absent One

My Idol
turned
her face away.

Her beauty stayed,
but her eyes
looked
away.

How could words describe
the bitter sweetness
that pierced
my heart

as I placed
my soul
on the
shrine

of the Absent One.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Returners

“...wa-innā ilayhi rāji‘ūn.”

Rāji‘ūn is not properly a verb (although it does function as a verb), but an active participle, which is also a noun. It is not a future tense of a verb, for something we will do only after our passing from this life, but a substantive, which also qualifies our present nature. We are not simply returning to God after death; we are returners by nature. Every moment of our existence, we are returning; because we are created to be so, and all our faculties, all our strengths and virtues, are attuned for this returning which is our life, apart from which there is neither light nor goodness in us; for we are His, and to Him we are returners.

There Will Be No Second Coming

There will be no second coming;
   that grace will not return again,
from another, as it once came.
   Grace will not come from hoping.

Other than in your own becoming
   what once was revealed to you,
then, in the Beauty of the first,
   there will be no second coming.

The Walled Garden

Every glimpse of Your loveliness,
   every endearing trait by which
You let Yourself be known of me
   is but the walled garden wherein
we have arranged to meet, tonight.
   When I enter the garden, Love,
   You will be there, waiting for me.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

If you place all matters into His hands,
He will give back to you all that matters.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Creation Week

God did not create the world in a week, a long time ago. That is an unfortunate misunderstanding. God is creating the world now, every day of our lives, forever. That is why, according to the old fable, it is said that God created the world in a week: to remind us of God’s continuous act of creation, every day of the week.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Your Absence

I returned to that garden
   where once we sat together,
in the sunset of another life.
   the place was so full of you,
the biting pain so tender,
   that for a timeless moment
   I almost found you there.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

To be at one with You

O Dearest, to be at one with You in this silence
where words, where even songs can never go,
to melt in this embrace known only of You and I,
my Love, is it not worth wonders and worlds
to once lose myself in the curve of Your smile?

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Apple Tree

Grass grows to its fullness
     in a matter of days,
     but the apple tree
will not yield one sweet apple
     before many years.
If grass-eaters scoff
     at your bitter apples,
     for Heaven’s sake
do not cut down your apple tree.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I will not ask to see or know You

I will not ask
   to see or know You.
I will not seek
   to hold or own You;
but my soul
   will turn to Your face,
my heart heavy
   with love’s sorrow.
I will not try
   to escape from You.
I will bow down
   in Your sunlight,
and at Your feet
   I will melt like snow.
I will stay still,
   I will be silent.
Then my heart
   will well up,
as pain becomes in me
   a raging storm.
I will let out
   heaves of sighs,
as tears of joy
   pearl from my eyes.
I will yearn to be Yours.
   I will long to be light.
I will give You my life,
   and I will die.
Then, in my nothingness,
   You will appear;
Your wondrous presence
   smiling brightly
in the clear mirror
   You have made
to behold Yourself in me.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Ascetic, the Devotee and the Knower

Abū Yazīd Bistāmī said: “The most veiled from God are three: the ascetic (zāhid) by his asceticism, the devotee (‘ābid) by his devotion, and the knower (‘ālim) by his knowledge.
   O the wretched ascetic who wears the mantle of asceticism and treads the path of the ascetics, if only he knew the insignificance of this world and of that which he renounces! If only he knew the little worth of the things he renounces, if only he knew his own place in this world among the ascetics!
   The true ascetic is the one who, in a glance, is captivated by Him and thereafter does not turn his gaze on another than Him.
   As for the true devotee, he is one who, in his devotion, has more regard for God’s grace upon him than for his devotion, so that his devotion is immersed in His grace.
   And as for the knower, if only he knew that all the knowledge God has ever manifested amounts to a mere line of the Preserved Tablet! And how much has he known that he has acted upon?”
   Then Abū Yazīd said: “The true knower is he whose knowledge is God, and he draws from Him whenever he wants and however he wants, without recourse to memory or books.
   Those three will possess something on the Day of Resurrection.”

[my translation]
From Shatahat al-Sufiyya, ed. Badawī (1976), p. 155.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Fall of Iblīs

‘I am better than him,’ [Iblīs] said. ‘You created me from fire
and You created him from clay’ (Qur’an 38:76).

Iblīs’ pride was concealed in his worship of the Exalted; but the command to honour Adam, whom Iblīs saw as lower than himself, brought it to light. Even the proud can honour the Exalted, since worship is a relation, and through relation with the Exalted a worshipper may hope to partake in exaltation. It is easy to honour what is higher than oneself. But to regard a being whose nature or state is lower than one’s own as worthy of honour, and to honour this being as worthier than oneself, that is the test of true humility.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From The Book of Privy Counseling

By the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing
   [Middle English, 14th century]

When you go apart to be alone for prayer, put from your mind everything you have been doing or plan to do. Reject all thoughts, be they good or be they evil. Do not pray with words unless you are really drawn to this; or if you do pray with words, pay no attention to whether they are many of few. Do not weigh them or their meaning. Do not be concerned about what kind of prayers you use, or whether you formulate them interiorly, by thoughts, or express them aloud in words. See that nothing remains in your conscious mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what He is like in Himself or in His works) and keep only the simple awareness that He is as He is. Let He be thus, I pray you, and force Him not to be otherwise. Search into Him no further, but rest in this faith as on solid ground. This awareness, stripped of ideas and deliberately bound and anchored in faith, shall leave your thought and affection in emptiness except for a naked thought and blind feeling of your own being. It will feel as if your whole desire cried out to God and said: “That which I am I offer to You, O Lord, without looking to any quality of Your being but only to the fact that You are as You are, and nothing more.”

      Let that quiet darkness be your whole mind and like a mirror to you. For I want your thought of self to be as naked and as simple as your thought of God, so that you can be spiritually united to God without any fragmentation and scattering of your mind. God is your being, and in the Divine you are what you are, not only because God is the cause and being of all that exists, but because the Divine is your cause and the deep centre of your being. Therefore, in this contemplative work think of your self and of God in the same way: that is, with the simple awareness that God is as God is, and that you are as you are. In this way your thought will not be fragmented or scattered, but unified in God who is all.


      Yet keep in mind this distinction between yourself and Him: He is your being but you are not His. It is true that everything exists in Him as in its source and ground of being, and that He exists in all things, as their cause and their being. Yet a radical distinction remains: He alone is His own cause and His own being. For as nothing can exist without Him, so He cannot exist without Himself. He is His own being and the being of everything else. Of Him alone may this be said: and thus He is wholly separate and distinct from every created thing. And thus, also, He is one in all things and all things are one in Him. For I repeat: al things exist in Him; He is the being of all.


      And since this is so, let grace unite your thought and affection to Him, while you strive to reject all minute inquiry into the particular qualities of your blind being or of His. Leave your thought quite naked, your affection uninvolved, and your self simply as you are, so that grace may touch and nourish you with the experiential knowledge of God as He really is. In this life, this experience will always remain dark and partial so that your longing desire for Him be ever newly enkindled. Look up joyfully, then, and say to your Lord, in words or desire: “That which I am, I offer to You, O Lord, for You are it entirely.” Go no further, but rest in this naked, stark, elemental awareness that you are as you are.


      It is not hard to master this way of thinking. I am certain that even the most uneducated man or woman, accustomed to a very primitive type of life, can easily learn it. Sometimes I smile to myself (though not without a touch of sadness), and marvel at those who claim that I write to you and others a complicated, difficult, lofty, and strange doctrine, intelligible to only a few clever and highly trained minds. It is not simple, uneducated folk who say this either; it is scholars and learned theologians. To these people in particular I want to reply. It is a great pity and a sad commentary on the state of those supposedly committed to God that, in our day, not just a few people but nearly everyone (excepting one or two of God’s special friends, here and there) is so blinded by a mad scramble for the latest theology or discoveries in the natural sciences that they cannot begin to understand the true nature of this simple practice; a practice so simple that even the most uneducated peasant may easily find in it a way to real union with God in the sweet simplicity of perfect love. Unfortunately, these sophisticated people are no more capable of understanding this truth in sincerity of heart than a child at his ABCs is able to understand the intricacies of erudite theologians. Yet, in their blindness, they insist on calling such a simple exercise deep and subtle; whereas, if they examined it rationally, they would discover it to be as clear and plain as the lesson of a beginner.


      Surely it is beginner’s fare, and I consider him hopelessly stupid and dull who cannot think and feel that he is; not how or what he is, but that he is. Such elemental self-awareness is obviously proper to the dumbest cow or most unreasonable beast. (I am being facetious, of course, for we cannot really say that one animal is dumber or more unreasonable than another.) But it is only fitting for a man to realize and experience his unique self-existence, because man stands apart in creation, far above all the beasts, as the only creature graced with reason. And so, go down to the deepest point of your mind and think of yourself in this simple, elemental way. (Others will mean the same thing, but because of their experience, speak of the mind’s “pinnacle”, and of this awareness as the “highest human wisdom”.) In any case, do not think what you are but that you are. For I grant that to realize what you are demands the effort of your intelligence in a good deal of thought and subtle introspection. But this you have done for quite a while with the help of God’s grace; and you understand to some degree (as much as you need to for the present) just what you really are – a human being by nature and a pitiful, fallen wretch through sin. Well do you know this. Yes, and probably you feel that you know only too well, from experience, the defilements that follow and befall a man because of sin. Fie on them! Forget them, I pray you. Reflect on them no further for fear of contamination. Instead, remember that you also possess an innate ability to know that you are, and that you can experience this without any special natural or acquired genius.


Step up bravely, then, and take this medicine. Lift up your sick self, just as you are, to the gracious God, just as He is. Leave behind all inquiry and profound speculation into your being or his. Forget all these qualities and everything about them, whether they be pure or defiled, natural or grace-given, divine or human. Nothing matters now except that you willingly offer to God that blind awareness of your naked being in joyful love, so that grace can bind you and make you spiritually one with the precious being of God, simply as He is in Himself.


I want you to understand clearly that in this work it is not necessary to inquire into minute details of God’s existence any more than of your own. For there is no name, no experience, and no insight so akin to the everlastingness of God than what you can possess, perceive, and actually experience in the blind loving awareness of this word, is. Describe Him as you will: good, fair Lord, sweet, merciful, righteous, wise, all-knowing, strong one, almighty; as knowledge, wisdom, might, strength, love, or charity, and you will find them all hidden and contained in this little word, is. God in His very existence is each and all of these. If you spoke of Him in a hundred like ways you would not go beyond or increase the significance of that one word, is. And if you used none of them, you would have taken nothing from it. So be as blind in the loving contemplation of God’s being as you are in the naked awareness of your own. Let your faculties rest from their minute inquiry into the attributes of His being or yours. Leave all this behind and worship Him with your substance: all that you are, just as you are, offered to all that He is, just as He is. For your God is the glorious being of Himself and you, in the naked starkness of his being. And thus you will bind everything together, and in a wonderful way, worship God with Himself because that which you are you have from Him and it is he, Himself. Of course, you had a beginning – that moment in time when He created you from nothing – yet your being has been and shall always be in Him, from eternity to eternity, for He is eternal.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beware.

The Beloved’s fragrance
is not all sweetness and joy.

It is devastation and ruin,
agony and death –
to the illusions
the lover lives by

in which he has
placed his trust
like the solid earth
he stands on.

Beware.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

love’s warm light

desire is
a fire 
that gives
no light –

intellect,
a light 
that gives
no warmth; 

and the
soul
that has
risen

above
mere
sensual
life

finds them
at one
in love’s
warm light.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Prophetic Invocation

Praise be to God –
before whose grandeur
   all things are modest,
before whose might
   all things are lowly,
to whose reign
   all things surrender,
to whose power
   all things submit,
before whose worth
   all things become still,
to whose wisdom
   all things are manifest,
before whose majesty
   all things are humbled.

Cited in Book IX of al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyā ‘ulūm al-dīn: Kitāb al-adhkār
wa-l-da‘awāt. From the collection of Ṭabarānī; Haythamī, Majma‘, x. 96.


الْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ الَّذِي تَوَاضَعَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِعَظَمَتِهِ، وَذَلَّ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِعِزَّتِهِ،
وخَضَعَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِمُلْكِهِ، وَاسْتَسْلَمَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِقُدْرَتِهِ، وَسَكَنَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِهَيْبَتِهِ،
وَأَظْهَرَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ بِحِكْمَتِهِ، وَتَصَاغَرَ كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لِكِبْرِيَائِهِ.

[my translation]

Saturday, February 8, 2014

From Ibn al-Fāriḍ’s “Naẓm al-Sulūk”

   [Arabic, 12th century]

My way is plain to whoever is guided;
   yet humans are blinded by desire.
It is time for Me to expose to you
   the nature of your passion,
and for whom you languish,
   and to refute your claim to love Me.
You have sworn your self to ardour;
   but your ardour is for your self.
I cite this as clear evidence
   that you still withhold an attribute.
For you will not love Me truly
   until you have passed away in Me;
and when you have ceased to be,
   only then will My Image arise in you.
Renounce your claim to love, 
   summon your heart to other cares, 
and in so doing drive away
   this fault of yours. 
Cease from coveting that union
   which will never be
so long as you hold on to your life;
   if you are sincere, die!
For such is love: if you do not die,
   you will never achieve
your aim in love; so decide on death,
   or leave my love alone.

   (ll. 96-102)

[my translation]

Lady Wisdom in the Old Testament

My retranslation of passages from the poetic books of the Old Testament where Wisdom (Grk: Sophia, Heb: Hokma) is personified as a feminine being.

“[Feminine wisdom] is no abstract, disinterested knowledge, but a wisdom of loving participation. [...] Thus the spiritual power of Sophia is living and saving; her overflowing heart is wisdom and food at once. The nourishing life that she communicates is a life of the spirit and of transformation, not one of earthbound materiality.
   – Erich Neumann

“Say to Wisdom, ‘You are my sister!’ and call Intelligence your intimate friend.”
   – Proverbs 7:4


From The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon

6:13 Wisdom shines brightly, and fades not.
   Easily is she discerned by those who love her,
   and those who seek her find her.
14 She is quick to make herself known to those who desire her;
15 He who rises with the dawn for her sake will not grow weary,
   for he will find her seated at his door.
16 Taking her to heart is the perfection of intelligence,
   and being wakeful for her is the short path to peace of mind.
17 She herself ranges in search of those who are worthy of her,
   and on their daily path she kindly appears to them,
   and meets them in every thought.
18 Wisdom truly begins with the desire to learn,
   which in fact is love for her.
19 Loving her means keeping her ways,
   and keeping her ways means immortality,
20 and immortality brings one close to God;
21 thus the desire for Wisdom leads to a kingdom.

7:7 Therefore I prayed, and insight was given me.
   I called for help, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I valued her above sceptre and throne,
   and held riches as nothing beside her.
9 I saw that no precious stone was her equal,
   for all the gold in the world compared with her is but a sand pile,
   and silver worth a pile of clay.
10 I loved her above health and beauty,
   and preferred her even to the light of day,
   for her radiance never sleeps.
11 So all good things came to me at once with her,
   and in her hands was wealth past counting.
12 And all was mine to delight in, for all follows where Wisdom leads,
   and I was ignorant before, that she is the mother of it all.
13 What I learned with pure aims I share without grudging,
   and I do not hoard the wealth that comes from her.
14 She is an infinite treasure for mankind,
   and those who receive her become God’s friends,
   commended to Him by the gifts they receive from her teachings.

7:21 All such things as are hidden and not foreseen, I have learned.
   For I have been taught by she who is the artist of all things,
      Wisdom.
22 For in her is a holy and intelligent spirit,
   unique yet manifold, subtle, free, lucid, pure, 
   clear, undefiled, lover of the good, eager,
23 independent, gentle and kind, steadfast,
   unerring, free from care, all-powerful, all-seeing,
   and all-permeating through intelligent, pure, and subtle spirits.
24 Wisdom moves more easily than motion itself,
   pervading all things because she is pure.
25 Like a fine mist she rises from divine power,
   a pure emanation of the Almighty’s glory,
   and nothing impure can enter her, even stealthily.
26 For she is the refulgence of everlasting light,
   the flawless mirror of the divine active power,
   and the image of his goodness.
27 Because she is one, she can do everything;
   abiding in herself, she renews all things.
   Age after age she enters holy souls
   and makes them friends of God and prophets,
28 for God loves none so much as those who live with Wisdom.
29 More radiant than the sun
   and surpassing every constellation,
   she excels the light of day;
30 for day turns into night,
   but no evil can prevail against Wisdom.
8:1 She spans the world from end to end in power,
   and orders all things well.

8:2 Wisdom have I loved; I sought her out in the days of my youth,
   and longed for her to be my bride,
   and I fell in love with her beauty.
3 She glorifies her noble birth because she lives with God,
   and the Lord of all loves her.
4 With her are the mysteries of God’s knowledge,
   and she inspires all his works.
If wealth is desirable in life,
   who is wealthier than Wisdom, from whom all things arise?
If intelligence is revealed in action,
   who of all beings is a greater artist than she?

8:17 Considering these things in myself,
      and pondering them in my heart,
   I realized that in kinship with Wisdom lies immortality,
18 and that in her friendship is pure delight.

8:21 But I saw there was no way to receive Wisdom
      except by God’s gift—
   and it was a sign of intelligence
      to know from whom that gift must come—
   so I asked the Lord, and prayed to Him,
   and said with all my heart:

9:1 God of my ancestors, merciful Lord,
      who made all things by your Word,
and in your Wisdom fashioned man,
   to be the guardian of creation,
3 as steward of the world in holiness and justice,
   and to rule fairly with sincerity of heart,
grant me Wisdom, who sits beside your throne,
   and do not refuse me a place among your servants.
5 I am your slave, your handmaid’s son,
   a man weak and short-lived,
   too feeble to comprehend justice and law;
for let a man be perfect in the eyes of his fellow men,
   if the Wisdom that comes from you is lacking,
      he will be of no account.
9 With you is Wisdom, familiar with your works,
   and present at the creation of the world by you.
   She knows what is pleasing in your sight,
   and what is right in your commandments.
10 Send her forth from the holy heavens,
   and from your glorious throne bid her come down,
   that she may be present at my side,
   so that I may learn what pleases you;
11 for she knows and understands all things,
   and she will guide me well in all I do,
   and guard me in her glory;
12 so shall my life’s work be acceptable.
13 How can any man learn God’s plan?
   How can one perceive the Lord’s will? 
14 The reasoning of men is feeble,
   and our plans are fallible;
15 for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
   and its clay burdens the mind full of thoughts.
16 With difficulty we guess even at things on earth,
   and struggle to find out what lies at our feet.
   And who has traced out what is in heaven?
17 Who learned your purposes, unless you gave them Wisdom,
   and sent down your Holy Spirit from heaven?
18 Thus it was that those on earth were set upon the right path,
   and were taught what pleases you;
   thus were they healed by Wisdom.


From The Book of Proverbs

8:22 The Lord brought me forth in the beginning of His ways,
   before His works of old.
23 I was there from eternity, in the beginning, before the earth was.
24 When there were no oceans, I was brought forth.
   When there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills,
      I was brought forth.
26 While as yet the earth and the fields were not made,
   nor the first of the dust of the world.
27 When the Lord established the heavens, I was there.
28 When He marked out the vault over the face of the deep,
   when He made firm the skies above, 
29 When He fixed fast the foundations of the earth,
   when He assigned to the sea its limit
   so that the waters might not transgress His command,
30 Then I was with Him as His master artisan,
      and I was daily His delight,
   rejoicing always before Him,
31 rejoicing and playing on the surface of the earth,
   and I found my delight in all humankind.

8:32 So now, my dear child, listen to me.
33 For happy are they who keep my ways.
34 Hear my teachings and be wise. Do not turn away from me.
35 Happy are they who listen to me,
   watching every day at my gate, waiting beside my door.
36 For those who find me find life, and receive favour from the Lord.
   But those who ignore me hurt themselves;
   all those who hate me love death.


From The Book of Sirach

1:7 The Lord Himself created Wisdom.
   He poured her out upon all His creation.
8 She dwells with all beings according to His gift,
   and He has given her to those who love Him.

4:11 Wisdom breathes life into her children,
   and cares for those who seek her.
12 Whoever loves her loves life,
   and those who search for her will be filled with happiness.
13 Whoever holds her close will inherit honour,
   and the Lord will bless the place she enters.
14 Those who serve her will be servants to the Holy One,
   and God loves those who love her.

17 For though Wisdom takes them at first through winding ways,
   bringing fear and faintness to them,
18 plaguing them with her discipline until she can trust them,
   and testing them with her ordeals until their heart is fully with her,
19 in the end Wisdom will return to bring them happiness,
   and reveal her secrets to them.

6:26 Come to Wisdom with all your heart,
   and keep her ways with all your power.
27 Search for her, and she will reveal herself to you,
   and when you have found her, do not let her go.
28 For in the latter end you will find rest in her,
   and she will be your joy.

30 For in her is the beauty of life, and her bands are purple lace.
31 You will put her on as a robe of glory,
   and set her upon you as a crown of joy.

14:20 Blessed are those who meditate on Wisdom
   and reflect on holy things.
21 Those who ponder her ways in their heart
   will also have understanding in her secrets.

15:1 He that is faithful and just will come to Wisdom.
2 Like a honourable mother she will come to meet him,
   and like a virgin bride she will embrace him.
She will nourish him with the bread of meaning,
   and offer him living water from her spring to drink.
She will heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness,
   and clothe him with a robe of glory.

24:1 Wisdom praises herself, and finds honour in God.
In the midst of her people she proclaims her glory.
3 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
   and glorifies herself in the sight of His power:
4 I came forth from the Most High, the firstborn before all creatures:
   I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never fails,
   and I covered the earth like a mist. 
Alone I circled the vault of the sky
   and walked on the bottom of the deeps.
Over the waves of the sea and over the whole earth
   and over every people and every nation I have held sway.
9 From eternity, in the beginning, God created me,
   and for eternity I shall remain.

24:18 I am the mother of fair love, and of awe,
   and of knowledge, and of holy hope.
   In me is all grace of the way and of the truth,
   in me is all hope of life and virtue.
19 Come to me, you who desire me, and be filled with my fruits.
20 For my spirit is sweeter than honey,
   and my inheritance more delightful than the sweetest honeycomb.
21 Those who eat of me will hunger for more,
   and those who drink of me will thirst for more.

24:28 The first man did not know Wisdom fully,
   nor will the last one fathom her.
29 For her thoughts are more abundant than the sea,
   and her counsel deeper than the great abyss.

24:40 I, Wisdom, have poured out rivers.
41 I, like a brook out of a river of a mighty water.
42 I, like a channel of a river,
   and like an aqueduct, came out of Paradise.
43 I said to myself: I will water my garden of plants,
   and I will water abundantly the fruits of my meadow.
44 And behold, my brook became a great river,
   and my river came near to a sea:
45 For I make Truth to shine forth like the dawn,
   and I will send forth her light afar off. 
46 I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth,
   and will behold all that sleep,
   and will awaken all that yearn in the Lord.
47 I will yet pour out teachings like prophecy,
   and will instruct all those that search for knowledge,
   and I will not cease to enlighten their offspring,
   even to the holy age.

51:13 In my youth I desired Wisdom openly in my prayers.
14 She came to me in her beauty, and until the end I will cultivate her.
15 From the first blossom to the ripening grape,
   my heart delighted in her.
   My foot walked on the right path,
   because from my youth I sought after her.
16 I became resolutely devoted to her,
   and earnestly I followed that which is good.
17 I burned with desire for her, never turning back.
   I became wholly immersed in her presence,
   never weary of extolling her.
18 I stretched forth my hands to the heavens above,
   and bewailed my ignorance of her.
   I directed my soul to her, and in purity I attained to her.
19 She opened her gate, and revealed her secrets to me.
   At first acquaintance with her
   I gained knowledge such that I will never forsake her.
20 My whole being was stirred as I beheld her.
   Thus she became my beloved companion.