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The first attempt at a translation of the poem was made by Dr. Tholuck of Berlin, who published some extracts from it with a Latin translation in his “Ssufismus” in 1821. In 1825 he followed this up with a German metrical version of nearly one-third of the entire poem in his “Blüthensammlung aus der Morgenländischen Mystik." In 1838 the Baron von Hammer-Purgstall published the entire Persian text, after a careful recension of four manuscripts, accompanied by a German metrical translation, and by a few notes derived from the commentary of Muhammad bin Yahya Láhiji. The following translation has been made from Hammer's text with the substitution of a few conjectural emendations. The notes include nearly all those given by Hammer, together with some derived from other sources as specified. Hammer's plan of printing the translations of Arabic quotations in italics has been followed throughout.
According to Hammer the Gulshan Raz is greatly esteemed at Constantinople. In the Turkish, Arabic, and Persian glossary of Khaja Aini the study of this poem is recommended in the following terms :
“Make the Masnavi thy soul's amulet,
Raise the song of the bulbul of the Gulshan R&z."
At first sight it seems strange that an orthodox Musulman should approve a book which teaches Pantheism as explicitly as the Hindu Upanishads and Vedanta, but the marvel disappears when the poem is examined. For it is found to be written throughout in a highly moral and, it may even be said, a devotional tone. The prophet and his doctrines are spoken of with the utmost reverence, and texts of the Koran, traditions, and allusions to sacred history are woven into the argument on almost every page. Even when he is controverting the plain teaching of the Koran, e.g as regards the future life of physical enjoyments or torments, Mahmud ingeniously invokes in aid of his views texts of the Koran “spiritually understood,” as the phrase is. And even while laying down the main principle of Pantheism in most uncompromising terms, he is most careful to repudiate its worst consequences, viz., the indifference of good and bad actions, and the irresponsibility of man.
To the European reader the Gulshan Raz is useful as being one of the clearest explanations of that peculiar phraseology which pervades Persian poetry, and without a clear understanding of which it is impossible to appreciate that poetry as it deserves. And it is also interesting as being one of the most articulate expressions of “Sufism," that remarkable phase of Muhammadan religious thought which corresponds to the mysticism of European theology. This correspondence has been recognised by European divines of various schools. The Quaker Barclay in his “ Apology,” published at the end of the seventeenth century, supports his doctrine of mystical intuition by references to the “ History of Hai Ibn Yokhdan,”a Sufi romance written by a Spanish Arab. Dr. Pusey in his preface to Nicoll's Catalogue of Bodleian MSS. makes the following remarks :-“ Adnotavi proeterea “ (quotiescunque id mihi innotuit) qui scriptores queeve opera è Sufio"rum scholâ profecta essent; quippe quorum ingenia atque pro“prietates, a Tholuckio jam optime reseratas, penitus perspectas ha“buisse Christiano nomini, ut mihi quidem videtur, aliquantum saltem “proderit. Eam enim doctrinam ex arido atque exili Muhammadan“ismi solo tam cito esse enatam, res est per se admiratione digna, “quæque desiderium illud menti humance ingenitum diserte attesta“tur, quo extra se proripitur et cum Deo rursus conjungi necessitate “quadam naturce vehementer cupit.” And Dr. Wolff (Missionary Tour, p. 205) speaking of the Sufis of Bokhara says :-" They are "people who really try, as they express themselves, to come nearer to "God by a moral life, separation from the world, meditation, prayer, " and reading the books of other religious sects.” The parallelism of European and Muhammadan mysticism holds good, not only between the more exalted and spiritual forms of each, but also and in an equal degree between their corrupt and degraded forms. If Sufism has its Mevlevis and Rufáis, and Malámiyun, its “Dancing” and “Howling" and “Reproached” durveshes, European mysticism has produced its Omphalopsychi or Navelgazers of Mount Athos, its Anabaptists of Munster, and its Shakers. Dr. Tholuck, whose book “Ssufismus” is the best European authority on the subject, notwithstanding this similarity thinks that no historical connection exists between the mysticism of Europe and that of Persia, and that each was the unborrowed spontaneous product of the religious emotions which are common to all mankind, -viz., the belief in a super-human power, the feeling of dependence, and the aspirations of the soul heavenwards. And no doubt this view is true in the main. But the Sufi doctrines, as elaborated in the Gulshan Raz, are most obviously mixed up with a strong infusion of Greek metaphysics, and there can be little doubt that this metaphysical element was derived from Gazzali, Al Farabi, and the other so-called Arabian philosophers, who had themselves derived it from the translations of the Greek authors executed under the auspices of the Caliphs Harun ur Rashid, Mámún and their successors. The authorities referred to in the notes to the following translation leave little room for doubt that Alexandria was the birthplace of much of the Sufi speculation, as it unquestionably was of much European scholastic theology. * The Gulshan Raz begins with an exordium containing a summary of the contents, and this is followed by a preface giving an account of the circumstances under which the book was written.
The first Answer and its illustrations treat of thought. In language which recalls Plato's description of dialectic, thought is defined as the passage from the false to the truth, the seeing of the absolute One in the multiplex particulars of sense. This deep insight into the ultimate ground of all things is not to be gained by reason, or by the processes of logic. The philosopher sees nothing in the universe but the contingent, and necessary being has no sample in contingent. All things become known by their contraries, but God has no fellow nor like. How can you know Him ?
This recalls Dean Mansel's dictum that a thing can be conceived and known as that which it is, only by being distinguished from that which it is not, and by being assimilated to other things which resemble it, by being as the poet says,
“Won from the vague and formless infinite."
. Mahmud would say with Bæthius, “ All that is known is known not according to the force of itself, but rather according to the faculty of
those knowing it," and with St. Augustine, “ God cannot be comprehended, for if you comprehended Him He would not be God.”
Elsewhere Mahmud says, “Reason cannot endure the light of that countenance." The Infinite is unknowable by the human intellect in any strict sense of “knowing,” and hence the pretended science of the Infinite is a delusion. The dogmas of the scholastic theologians and of the formalists, as well as those of the secular philosophers regarding the nature and attributes of the Absolute and Infinite are as the judg. ments of blind men about colours, or as mere motes in the eye which delude the seer into the fancy that they exist in what he is looking at.
Mahmud goes on to insist on the essentially relative character of all man's perceptions of the universe. Suppose, he says, the solar system were a fixture and never moved, the shadows and colours produced by the sun's beams would seem as stable and permanent as material objects now seem. This is one of the old sceptical arguments of the Greek Pyrrhonists and New Academy which are reproduced by the so-called Arabian philosophers, and notably in the Jhya-al-'alum of Gazzali of Tus (1100 A. D.), and no doubt Mahmud took it from them. The whole discussion is a vague anticipation of what has been called “the great axiom of modern philosophy,” viz., that man's experience is only of phenomena, and that the human mind can no more transcend its finite and relative experience, and know the Absolute ground which is believed to underlie it, than the greyhound can outstrip his shadow, or the eagle outsoar the atmosphere which bears him up. Hence Mahmud concludes that he who desires to penetrate to the Absolute Divine ground of all things must cast away the staff of reason, “ abstract” his mind from all impressions of sense and ratiocinations of intellect, and strive to attain illumination or inspiration from above.
In the second Answer and its corollaries the same subject is continued. Enlightened by this Divine illumination the saint sees God first in every thing that he sees, and apprehends the universe to be nothing but a beam of the Light of lights. His eyes, as Plato says in the Republic, are raised to behold the light of Very Being which lighteth all things. He sees that this visible universe of phenomena is only the reflection of the shining of 'The Truth,' and man the reflected eye of that hidden
Person. These multiplex phenomena are only that One Being counted over and over again, just as a single spark of fire whirled round very quickly presents the illusion of a circle. These unreal phenomena do but “veil” the face of the One Being in whom they all have their being. Behind the veil of each atom is hidden the glory of the face of the Beloved. Man lies as it were asleep and in a dream,- let him awake and recognise the Divinity which is in him and about him, and press upwards like the prophets and holy men of old to the Divine source whence all things proceeded and whereto they will all return. Let him not rest imprisoned in the gaol of nature, but come forth and behold the witness of the spirit that there is in all things a Being and a Power above him. This Divine power, continues Mahmud, has diffused or evolved itself into the visible universe in the successive “emanations” or hypostases of the Logos,—the primal Soul,-the heavenly spheres,—the material elements, and last of all man. The heavens declare the glory of their Creator, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. And man too is a part of this great emanation or outpouring of Himself which God has appointed, and there is no other hidden source and principle in him than this One Being. The tyrant and the fool are reflections of Divinity equally with the wise and just, though they are reflected in a turbid mirror. Hence Mahmud concludes that as man's only real existence is in and of the One real Being, he must ignore and forsake “ self,”-his individual, separate and illusive existence, and strive to be re-united with and reabsorbed in the Divine source and ground of his being, which is the only real existence.
It is almost superfluous to point out passages in European writers parallel to this. The Roman poet Lucan tells how,
Jupiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moveris, And Pope how :
"All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
“Whose body nature is, and God the soul,” And how the One great Being
“ Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,