Real Practice For Real People

Real practice for real people

The New Message from God places a much greater emphasis on what a person practices, than on what a person believes. I wish to share yet another story from the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah (1924-1996). This tale is from the teachings of the Khilwati (‘recluse’) Order, founded by Omar Khilwati who died in 1397. It is very pertinent to the subject of practice.

Real practice for real people

Two pious and worthy men went into a mosque together. The first one took off his shoes and placed them neatly, side by side, outside the door. The second man removed his shoes, placed them sole to sole and took them into the mosque with him.

There was an argument among a group of other pious and worthy folk who were sitting at the door, as to which of these men was the better. “If one went barefoot into a mosque, was it not better to leave the very shoes outside?” asked one. “But should we not consider”, said another, ‘that the man who took his shoes into the mosque carried them to remind himself by their very presence that he was in a state of proper humility?”

When the two men came out after their prayers, they were questioned separately, as it happened, by different parties from the onlookers.

The first man said: “I left my shoes outside for the usual reason. The reason is that if anyone wants to steal them he will have an opportunity of resisting that temptation, and thus acquiring merit for himself.” The listeners were most impressed by the high-mindedness of a man whose possessions were of so little account to him that he willingly entrusted them to whatever might be their fate.

The second man, at the same time, was saying: “I took my shoes into the mosque because, had I left them outside, they might have constituted a temptation to steal them. Whoever had yielded to this temptation would have made me his accomplice in sin.” The hearers were most impressed by this pious sentiment, and admired the thoughtfulness of the sage.

But yet another man, a man of wisdom, who was present, cried out: “While you two men and your followers have been indulging in your admirable sentiment, training each other with the play of hypothetical instances, certain real things have been happening.”

“What were these things?” asked the crowd.

“Nobody was tempted by the shoes. Nobody was not tempted by the shoes. The theoretical sinner did not pass by. Instead, another man altogether, who had no shoes at all to carry with him or to leave outside, entered the mosque. Nobody noticed his conduct. He was not conscious of the effect which he might be having on people who saw him or did not see him. But, because of his real sincerity, his prayers in this mosque today helped, in the most
direct way possible, all the potential thieves who might or might not steal shoes or reform themselves by being exposed to temptation.”

Do you still not see that the mere practice of self-conscious conduct, however excellent in its own realm, is a pale thing indeed when measured against the knowledge that there are real men of wisdom?

Who am I practicing for?

There are multiple things one could take away from this story. One thing I am taking away now is that in the realm of practice, hypothetical people are overrated. The theoretical sinner did not pass by. He might never pass by. The two supposedly pious and worthy men started with an incidental detail of practice. They then wove a fantasy for the purpose of feeling good about themselves. Any sincere effort by (or for) a real person is much more significant than every effort by (or for) a merely possible person. It is my sincere hope that students of every tradition engage in real practice for real people.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

The Man Whose Time Was Wrong

The man whose time was wrong
Shrine of Abdul Qadir Gilani, Baghdad, Iraq

I have shared on many occasions that there is a sympathetic vibration between the New Message from God, and the lives and teachings of various dervishes. This is another tale from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah (1924-1996). Shah attributed this tale to Abdul Qadir Gilani (1078-1166) This is another tale to enjoy with a beverage, as it is longer than most posts.

The man whose time was wrong

Once upon a time there was a rich merchant who lived in Baghdad. He had a substantial house, large and small properties and dhows which sailed to the Indies with rich cargoes. He had gained these things partly through inheritance, partly through his own efforts, exercised at the right time and place, partly through the benevolent advice and direction of the King of the West, as the Sultan of Cordoba was called at that time.

[No, this is not the same merchant as in the story “The Merchant and the Christian Dervish.” Cordoba is a real place, a city of 325,000 in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia.]

Then something went wrong. A cruel oppressor seized the land and houses. Ships which had gone to the Indies foundered in typhoons, disaster struck his house and his family. Even his close friends seemed to have lost their power to be in a true harmony with him, although both he and they wanted to have the right kind of social relationship.

The merchant decided to journey to Spain to see his former patron, and he set off across the Western Desert. On the way one accident after another overtook him. His donkey died; he was captured by bandits and sold into slavery, from which he escaped only with the greatest difficulty; his face was tanned by the sun until it was like leather; rough villagers drove him away from their doors. Here and there a dervish gave him a morsel of food and a rag to cover himself. Sometimes he was able to scoop a little fresh water from a pool, but more often than not it was brackish.

[We are not told of the route the merchant took from Baghdad. Perhaps he traveled along the southern Mediterranean coast. But suffice it to say that it was a difficult journey. I imagine that after a difficult day’s travel, as he drifted off to sleep, he consoled himself. He would think how the future benevolence of the King of the West would make it all worth while. Say what you will about the man whose time was wrong. He was most assuredly determined.]

Ultimately he reached the entrance of the palace of the King of the West.

Even here he had the greatest difficulty in gaining entry. Soldiers pushed him away with the hafts of their spears, chamberlains refused to talk to him. He was put to work as a minor employee at the Court until he could earn enough to buy a dress suitable to wear when applying to the Master of Ceremonies for admission to the Royal Presence.

But he remembered that he was near to the presence of the king, and the recollection of the Sultan’s kindness to him long ago was still in his mind. Because, however, he had been so long in his state of poverty and distress, his manners had suffered, and the Master of Ceremonies decided that he would have to take a course in behaviour and self-discipline before he could allow him to be presented at Court.

All this the merchant endured until, three years after he quit Baghdad, he was shown into the audience hall.

The king recognized him at once, asked him how he was, and bade him sit in a place of honour beside him.

‘Your Majesty,’ said the merchant, ‘I have suffered most terribly these past years. My lands were usurped, my patrimony expropriated, my ships were lost and with them all my capital. For three years I have battled against hunger, bandits, the desert, people whose language I did not understand. Here I am, to throw myself upon Your Majesty’s mercy.’

The king turned to the Chamberlain. ‘Give him a hundred sheep, make him a Royal Shepherd, send him up yonder mountain, and let him get on with his work.’

Slightly subdued because the king’s generosity seemed less than he had hoped for, the merchant withdrew, after the customary salutation.

[ I consider the man whose time was wrong to be inadequately prepared on the inside. His expectations of the king’s generosity were too high.]

No sooner had he reached the scanty pasturage with his sheep than a plague struck them, and they all died. He returned to the Court.

‘How are your sheep?’ asked the king.

‘Your Majesty, they died as soon as I got them to their pasture.’

The king made a sign and decreed: ‘Give this man fifty sheep, and let him tend them until further notice.’

Feeling ashamed and distraught, the shepherd took the fifty animals to the mountainside. They started to nibble the grass well enough, but suddenly a couple of wild dogs appeared and chased them over a precipice and they were all killed.

The merchant, greatly sorrowing, returned to the king and told him his story.

‘Very well,’ said the king, ‘you may now take twenty-five sheep and continue as before.’

With almost no hope left in his heart, and feeling distraught beyond measure because he did not feel himself to be a shepherd in any sense of the word, the merchant took his sheep to their pasture. As soon as he got them there he found that the ewes all gave birth to twins, nearly doubling his flock. Then, again, twins were born. These new sheep were fat and well-fleeced and made excellent eating. The merchant found that, by selling some of the
sheep and buying others, the ones which he bought, at first so skimpy and small, grew strong and healthy, and resembled the amazing new breed which he was rearing. After three years he was able to return to the Court, splendidly attired, with his report of the way in which the sheep had prospered during his stewardship. He was immediately admitted to the presence of the king.

‘Are you now a successful shepherd?’ the monarch asked. ‘Yes indeed, Your Majesty. In an incomprehensible way my luck turned and I can say that nothing has gone wrong—although I still have little taste for raising sheep.’

‘Very well,’ said the king. ‘Yonder is the kingdom of Seville,whose throne is in my gift. Go, and let it be known that I make you king of Seville.’ And he touched him on the shoulder with the ceremonial axe.

The merchant could not restrain himself and burst out: ‘But why did you not make me a king when I first came to you? Were you testing my patience, already stretched almost to breaking point? Or was this to teach me something?’

The king laughed. ‘Let us just say that, on that day when you took the hundred sheep up the mountain and lost them, had you taken control of the kingdom of Seville, there would not have been one stone standing on top of another there today.’

[ The man whose time was wrong learned his lesson. He used his experience to succeed as a royal shepherd. I believe he ruled the kingdom of Seville wisely, and that the kingdom prospered under his rule. The story mentioned the word “luck,” but I’m not buying it. I don’t believe the king bought it. In the New Message from God, we have a great disbelief in luck. We have a great belief in preparation. We believe people have come to the world to serve a greater purpose. But there is a great deal of preparation necessary for it to be revealed. The merchant wasn’t ready to be the king of Seville. The king knew full well that the man whose time was wrong was ready to be the king of Seville. I am in preparation for a stronger iteration of the purpose for which I came to the world. I don’t claim to be ready yet. I claim to be working on it.]

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

There Is A Wise Perception Of The Present

There is a wise perception of the present

Cherries are on sale at my local grocer. In my mind, cherries are connected with one of the tales in the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. I have mentioned on numerous occasions that there is a great sympathetic vibration between these dervish tales and the teachings of the New Message from God. It is occurring to me to demonstrate this by commenting on this dervish tale as it proceeds.

There is a wise perception of the present

This tale is attributed to Sufi Abdul-Hamid Khan of Qandahar, who died in 1962. He was the Master of the Afghan Mint, a man with one foot in the dervish world and the other in the world of modern technology. This tale is called “Valuable – and Worthless.” I will put my commentary in brackets.

A certain king one day called a counselor to him and said “The strength of real thinking depends upon the examination of alternatives. Tell me which alternative is better: to increase the knowledge of my people or give them more to eat. In either case they will benefit.”

The Sufi said “Majesty, there is no point in giving knowledge to those who cannot receive it, any more than there is point to giving food to those who cannot understand your motives. Therefore it is not correct to assume that ‘in either case they will benefit.’ If they cannot digest the food, or if they think you give it to them as a bribe, or that they can get more – you have failed. If they cannot see that they are being given knowledge, or whether it is knowledge or not, or even why you are giving it to them, they will not benefit. Therefore the question must be taken by degrees. The first degree is the consideration: ‘The most valuable person is worthless and the most worthless person is valuable.'”

There is a wise perception of the present

[We have now learned that the counselor is a Sufi, a dervish. I consider the knowledge being spoken of here to be knowledge in the ordinary sense; data, information, education. But the Knowledge spoken of by the New Message from God also requires skill and desire to be attained. The deeper spiritual intelligence that God has placed in every person is indifferent to satisfying idle curiosity.]

“Demonstrate this truth to me, for I cannot understand it,” said the king.

The Sufi then called the chief dervish of Afghanistan, and he came to the court. “If you had your way, what would you have someone in Kabul do?” he asked.

There is a wise perception of the present

[We now know this tale is set in Kabul, Afghanistan. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a royal command for a demonstration. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a sincere request to learn. As there are monastic orders, there are dervish orders. As monastic orders have leaders, dervish orders have leaders.]

“It so happens that there is a man near such-and-such a place who, if he knew it, could by giving a pound of cherries to a certain necessitous man, gain a fortune for himself and also great advancement for the whole country and progress for the Path,” said the chief dervish, who knew of the inner correspondence of things.

[I imagine the king thought to himself, “This is the very thing I was asking about in the first place, the benefit of my people!” I consider “the Path” to refer to the dervish path and its participants. I make no claim regarding the inner correspondence of things. But one of the outward manifestations of the Knowledge I seek to reclaim is wise perception in the present and in the future.]

The king was excited, for Sufis generally do not discourse upon such things. “Call him here and we will have it done!” he cried. The others silenced him with a gesture. “No,” said the first Sufi, “this cannot work unless it is done voluntarily.”

In disguise, in order not to influence the man’s choice, the three of them went straight to the Kabul bazaar. Divested of his turban and robe, the chief Sufi looked very much like any ordinary man. “I will take the part of the exciting cause,” he whispered, as the group stood looking at the fruit. He approached the greengrocer and wished him good day. Then he said “I know a poor man. Will you give him a pound of cherries, as a charity?” The greengrocer bellowed with laughter. “Well, I have heard some tricks, but this is the first time that someone who wanted cherries has stooped to ask me as if it were for charity!”

[So now we know that the man who could have given the cherries was a greengrocer, and the cherries were part of his inventory. I imagine the king being crushed on the inside as a golden opportunity was lost forever.]

“You see what I mean?” the first Sufi asked the king. “The most valuable man we have has just made the most valuable suggestion, and the event has proved that he is worthless to the man to whom he speaks.”

[There is a wise perception of the present. Step 232 of the 365 steps in Steps to Knowledge is “My calling in life requires the development of others.” I might not make my rendezvous with others. They might not make their rendezvous with me. But I have to work on being ready.]

“But what about ‘the most worthless person’ being valuable?” asked the king.

The two dervishes beckoned him to follow them.

As they were about to cross the Kabul River, the two dervishes suddenly seized the king and threw him into the water. He could not swim.

As he felt himself about to drown, Kaka Divana, whose name means Insane Uncle – a well-known pauper and lunatic who roamed the streets, jumped in and brought him safely to the bank. Various other, more solid, citizens had seen him in the water, but none moved.

[I am honored with others are strong. When others fail, I am reminded of the need for Knowledge. Today’s hero can be tomorrow’s failure. Today’s failure can be tomorrow’s hero.]

When the king was somewhat restored, the two dervishes intoned together: “The most worthless person is valuable!”

[There is a wise perception of the present. Don’t ask me how the dervishes knew that Kaka Divana would save the king. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t honor and enrich Kaka Divana for saving his life. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t have the dervishes executed. I think the answer to these things is “Elaborating on this would disrupt the arc of the story.”]

So the king went back to his old, traditional method of giving whatever he could – whether education or help of any kind – to those to whom it was decided from time to time were the most worthy recipients of such aid.

[There is a wise perception of the present. The punch line of the story is “The valuable advice of the dervishes proved to be worthless to the king, as it made no change in his behavior.” I desire for the wisdom of the wise to be valuable to me.]

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

The Time, The Place, The People

achaemenid-archers-glazed-brick-susa-c-500-bce The time, the place, the peopleSince I quoted this story, more or less, in the previous post, it seemed like a good idea to share this story in its entirety. This is one of a number of stories I have shared from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah collected this tale from the teaching of Sayed Imam Ali Shah, who died in 1860. Unlike King Hatim Tai, I have no historical reference for the singer Daud of Sahil mentioned in the story. You should obtain a cup of coffee or a comparable beverage before starting.

The time, the place, the people

In ancient times there was a king who called a dervish to him and said:

“The dervish path, through a succession of masters reaching back in unbroken succession to the earliest days of man, has always provided the light which has been the motivating cause of the very values of which my kingship is but a wan reflection.”

The dervish answered: “It is so.”

“Now,” said the king, “since I am so enlightened as to know the foregoing facts, eager and willing to learn the truths which you, in your superior wisdom, can make available – teach me!”

“Is that a command or a request?” asked the dervish.

“It is whatever you make of it,” said the king, “for if it will work as a command, I shall learn. If it operates successfully as a request, I shall learn.”

And he waited for the dervish to speak.

Many minutes passed, and at length the dervish lifted his head from the attitude of contemplation and said:

“You must await the moment of transmission.”

This confused the king, for, after all, if he wanted to learn he felt he had a right to be told, or shown, something or other.

The dervish left the court.

After that, day after day, the dervish continued to attend upon the king. Day in and day out the affairs of state were transacted, the kingdom passed through times of joy and trial, the counselors of state gave their advice, the wheel of heaven revolved.

“The dervish comes here every day,” thought the king, each time he caught sight of the figure in the patched cloak, “and yet he never refers to our conversation about learning. True, he takes part in many of the activities of the court; he talks and he laughs, he eats and he, no doubt, sleeps. Is he waiting for a sign of some kind?” But, try as he might, the king was unable to plumb the depths of this mystery.

At length, when the appropriate wave of the unseen lapped upon the shore of possibility, a conversation was taking place at court. Someone was saying: “Daud of Sahil is the greatest singer in the world.”

And the king, although ordinarily this sort of statement did not move him, conceived a powerful desire to hear this singer.

“Have him brought before me,” he commanded.

The master of ceremonies was sent to the singer’s house, but Daud, monarch among singers, merely replied: “This king of yours knows little of the requirements of singing. If he wants me just to look at my face, I will come. But if he wants to hear me sing, he will have to wait, like everyone else, until I am in the right mood to do so. It is knowing when to perform and when not which has made me, as it would make any ass which knew the secret, into a great singer.”

When this message was taken to the king, he alternated between wrath and desire, and called out: “Is there nobody here who will force this man to sing for me? For, if he only sings when the mood takes him, I, for my part, wish to hear him while I still want to hear him.”

It was then that the dervish stepped forward and said:

“Peacock of the age, come with me to visit this singer.”

The courtiers nudged one another. Some thought that the dervish had been playing a deep game, and was now gambling on making the singer perform. If he succeeded, the king would surely reward him. But they remained silent, for they feared a possible challenge.

Without a word the king stood up and commanded a poor garment to be brought. Putting it on, he followed the dervish into the street.

The disguised king and his guide soon found themselves at the singer’s house. When they knocked, Daud called down:

“I am not singing today, so go away and leave me in peace.”

At this the dervish, seating himself upon the ground, began to sing. He sang Daud’s favorite piece, and he sang it right through, from beginning to end.

The king, who was no great connoisseur, was very much moved by the song, and his attention was diverted to the sweetness of the dervish’s voice. He did not know that the dervish had sung the song slightly off-key deliberately, in order to awaken a desire to correct it in the heart of the master-singer.

“Please, please, do sing it again,” begged the king, “for I have never heard such a sweet melody.”

But at that moment Daud himself began to sing. At the first notes the dervish and the king were as men transfixed, and their attention was riveted to the notes as they flowed faultlessly from the throat of the nightingale of Sahil.

When the song was finished, the king sent a lavish present to Daud. To the dervish he said “Man of wisdom! I admire your skill in provoking the Nightingale to perform, and I would like to make you an adviser at the court.”

But the dervish simply said, “Majesty, you can hear the song you wish only if there is a singer, if you are present, and there is someone to form the channel for the performance of the song. As it is with master-singers and kings, so it is with dervishes and their students. The time, the place, the people and the skills.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

Whether A Ruby Or A Pebble…

Some rubies from Burma. Whether a ruby or a pebble

Sharing the tale of “The Merchant and the Christian Dervish” serves a number of happy intentions for me.

Whether a ruby or a pebble

I wish to share something of the life of Jalaludin Rumi. I have shared a number of his poems so far. I will most likely share more in the future. But Rumi insisted that he was more than a poet. He told his audiences that like a good host, he gave them poetry because they demanded it, providing what was asked for. But he declared poetry to be tripe compared with a certain high development of the individual. I would like to take this idea a step further, claim that Rumi is one of those rare individuals who attained to Knowledge, and demonstrated its outward manifestations.

To me, this story offers certain hints and clues as to the secret aqueduct by which the influence of Rumi came to the West.

A rich merchant of Tabriz came to Konia, looking for the wisest man there, for he was in trouble. After trying to get advice from the religious leaders, the lawyers, and others, he heard of Rumi, to whom he was taken.

Tabriz, Iran to Konya, Turkey. Whether a ruby or a pebbleHe took with him 50 gold pieces as an offering. When he saw the Maulana in the audition-hall, he was overcome with emotion.

[The Arabic word “maula” has multiple connotations, including master, lord, protector, patron, client, charge, friend, companion, and associate. Adding “na” at the end of a noun signifies first person plural possessive. The title “Maulana” is used as an honorific.]

Jalaludin said to him “Your fifty coins are accepted. But you have lost two hundred, which is why you are here. God has punished you and is showing you something. Now all will be well with you.”

The merchant was amazed at what the Maulana knew. Rumi continued: “You have had many troubles because one day in the far west of Christendom you saw a Christian dervish lying in the street. You spat at him. Go to him and ask forgiveness, and give him our salutations.”

St. Francis of Assisi, painted by El Greco. Whether a ruby or a pebble

[I consider the phrase “Christian dervish” to signify a mendicant friar, a member of a religious order which by vow of poverty renounces all proprietorship both individually and in common. Mendicant friars rely for support on their own work and the charity of the faithful. The Friars Minor, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, pictured above, is an instance of a mendicant order.]

As the merchant stood terrified at the reading of his mind, Jalaludin said “Shall we show him to you now?” He touched the wall of the room, and the merchant saw the scene of the saint in the marketplace in Europe. He reeled away from the Master’s presence, completely nonplussed.

Traveling as fast as he could to the Christian sage, he found him lying prostrate on the ground. As he approached him, the Frankish dervish said “Our master Jalal has communicated with me.”

[Franks ruled a great deal of western Europe at the time of this story. The Merovingian and Carolingian empires of Europe were Frankish empires.]

The merchant looked in the direction in which the dervish was pointing, and saw, as in a picture, Jalaludin chanting such words as these: “Whether a ruby or a pebble, there is a place on His hill, there is a place for all…”

The merchant carried back the greeting of the Frankish saint to Jalal, and settled down in the community of dervishes at Konia.

Idries Shah writes “In the East there is considerable traditional insistence upon his [Rumi’s] close connection with western mystics and thinkers. This version of ‘The Merchant and the Christian Dervish’ is translated from Aflaki’s Munaqib el-Arifin, the lives of early Mevlevi dervishes, completed in 1353.” Rumi’s disciples founded the Mevlevi order of dervishes, and it exists to this day.

In the greater scheme of things, I consider myself but a pebble contemplating the great mountain, I take great comfort in Rumi’s words, that whether a ruby or a pebble, there is a place on His hill, there is a place for all.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

A Tale of Generous King Hatim Tai

Basawan_-_Alexander_Visits_the_Sage_Plato A story by Amir Khorso, who wrote a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

I was under the impression until today that Hatim Tai was a fictional figure, as I had only heard of him in one of the stories in Tales of the Dervishes. Idries Shah collected the story “The King Who Decided to be Generous” from the book “The Tale of the Four Dervishes,” by Amir Khusro, written in the late 13th century. I believe Idries Shah found the tale worthy of collection because of the 1804 translation by Mir Amman into the ordinary Urdu language of his day. This tale is a little longer than the usual blog posts here. You might want to get a cup of coffee or tea before proceeding further.

A tale of generous King Hatim Tai

Hatim Tai was an Arabian king who lived during the 6th century. He is renowned for his generosity. I am told that Hatim Tai’s generosity excelled, in letter and in spirit, that of all other men.

Another Arabian king coveted the possessions, the villages and oases, the camels and the fighting-men of Hatim Tai. So this man declared war on Hatim, sending him a messenger with the declaration of war: “Yield to me, otherwise I shall surely overrun you and your lands, and possess myself of your sovereignty.”

A picture from King Hatim Tai's domain. A tale of generous King Hatim Tai.

When this message reached Hatim’s court, his advisers at once suggested that he mobilize the warriors in defense of his realm saying: “There is surely not an able-bodied man or woman among your followers who will not gladly lay down his life in defense of our beloved king.”

But Hatim, contrary to the expectation of the people, said:

“No, instead of your riding forth and shedding your blood for me, I shall flee. It would be far from the path of generosity if I were to become the cause of the sacrifice of a life of a single man or woman. If you yield peaceably, this king will content himself with taking only your services and rents, and you will have suffered no material loss. If, on the other hand, you resist, by the conventions of war he will be entitled to regard your possessions as booty, and if you lose the war you will be penniless.”

So saying, Hatim took only a stout staff and went into the near-by mountains, where he found a cave and sank himself in contemplation.

Half the people were deeply affected by the sacrifice of his wealth and position by Hatim Tai on their behalf. But others, especially those who sought to make a name for themselves on the field of valor, muttered: “How do we know that this man is not a simple coward?” And others, who had little courage, muttered against him saying: “He has, in a sense, saved himself; for he has abandoned us to a fate which is unknown to us. Perhaps we may become the slaves of this unknown king who is, after all, enough of a tyrant to declare war upon his neighbors.”

Others again, uncertain as to what to believe, remained silent, until they should have some means of making up their minds.

The invading tyrant is disturbed in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

And so it was that the tyrant king, accompanied by his glittering hosts, took possession of Hatim Tai’s domain. He did not increase the taxes, he did not usurp for himself more than Hatim had taken from the people in exchange for being their protector and administrator of justice. But one thing disturbed him. It was the fact that he heard whispers that, although he had possessed himself of a new realm, yet it had been yielded up to him as an act of generosity by Hatim Tai. These were the words spoken by some of the people.

“I cannot be real master of this land,” declared the tyrant, “until I have captured Hatim Tai himself. While he lives, there is still a loyalty towards him in the hearts of some of these people. This means they are not completely my subjects, even though they behave outwardly as such.”

The tyrant offered a reward for the capture of Hatim Tai in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

So he published an edict that whoever should bring him Hatim Tai would be rewarded with five thousand pieces of gold. Hatim Tai knew nothing of this until one day he was sitting outside his cave and he heard a conversation between a woodcutter and his wife.

The woodcutter said: “My dear wife, I am now old and you are much younger than I. We have small children, and in the natural order of events I may be expected to die before you and while the children are youngsters. If we could only find and capture Hatim Tai, for whom there is a reward of five thousand pieces of gold from the new king, your future would be secure.”

“Shame on you!” said his wife. “Better that you should die, and that I and our children should starve to death, than that our hands be stained with the blood of the most generous man of all time, who sacrificed all for our sake.”

“That is all very well,” said the old man, “but a man has to think of his own interests. I have, after all, responsibilities. And in any case, every day more and more people believe Hatim is a coward. It will only be a matter of time before they have searched every possible piece of cover for him.”

“The belief in Hatim’s cowardice is fueled by love of gold. Much more of this kind of talk and Hatim will have lived in vain.”

At that moment Hatim Tai stood up and revealed himself to the astonished pair. “I am Hatim Tai,” he said. “Take me to the new king and claim your reward.”

The old man was ashamed, and his eyes filled with tears. “No, great Hatim,” he said, “I cannot bring myself to do it.”

While they were arguing, a number of people, who had been searching for the fugitive king, gathered around.

“Unless you do so,” said Hatim, “I will surrender myself to the king and tell him that you have been hiding me. In that case, you will be executed for treason.”

The old woodcutter is between a rock and a hard place in a tale of generous King Hatim Tai

Realizing that this was Hatim, the mob moved forward, seized their former king, and carried him to the tyrant, with the woodcutter following miserably behind.

When they got to the court, each claimed that he had himself captured Hatim. The former king, seeing irresolution on the face of his successor, asked to be allowed to speak: “Know, O King, that my evidence should also be heard. I was captured by this old woodcutter and not by yonder mob. Give him, therefore, his reward, and do what you will with me…”

At this the woodcutter stepped forward and told the king the truth about Hatim’s having offered himself as a sacrifice for the future security of his family.

The new king was so overwhelmed by this story that he ordered his army to withdraw, placed Hatim Tai back on his throne, and retired to his own country.


I was sharing this tale with an elderly gentleman today, who suggested “You should put that on your blog.” I think he had a great idea. Hatim Tai’s tomb can be found near the city of Ha’il in Saudi Arabia.

I would like to put flowers on the grave of Hatim Tai. A tale of generous King Hatim Tai

To this day, there is a proverb among the Arabs, “more generous than Hatem” (Arabic: أكرم من حاتم). I take great joy in telling you a tale of generous King Hatim Tai.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

The Horseman And The Snake

The-Young-Poet-Rumi-by-Skip-Noah Rumi wrote the story of The Horseman and the Snake

The Young Poet Rumi by Skip Noah

The Rumi story of the rider and the man who swallowed a snake first appears in Book 2 (out of 6) of the Mathnawi.  I have read two later versions of this story.  One of them is the 18th century version by Salim Abdali.  The other is the 20th century version by Coleman Barks, called “Jesus on the lean donkey.”  I am sharing the Salim Abdali version, found in the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah.

I am sharing this story because there is a section in the Coleman Barks version that captures the feeling I felt when I first wrote about Step 65 “I have come to work in the world” of Steps to Knowledge.  The line that skewers my soul is “God’s Silence is necessary, because of humankind’s faintheartedness.”  Here is the story.

The Horseman and the Snake

There is a proverb that the “opposition” of the man of knowledge is better than the “support” of the fool.

I, Salim Abdali, bear witness that this is true in the greater ranges of existence, as it is true in the lower levels.

This is made manifest in the tradition of the Wise, who have handed down the tale of the Horseman and the Snake.

A horseman from his point of vantage saw a poisonous snake slip down the throat of a sleeping man.  The horseman realized that if the man were allowed to sleep the venom would surely kill him.

Accordingly he lashed the sleeper until he was awake.  Having no time to lose, he forced this man to a place where there were a number of rotten apples lying upon the ground and made him eat them.  Then he made him drink large gulps of water from a stream.

All the while the other man was trying to get away, crying “What have I done, you enemy of humanity, that you should abuse me in this manner?”

Finally, when he was near to exhaustion, and dusk was falling, the man fell to the ground and vomited out the apples, the water, and the snake.  When he saw what had came out of him, he realized what had happened, and begged the forgiveness of the horseman.

This is our condition.  In reading this, do not take allegory for history, nor history for allegory. Those who are endowed with knowledge have responsibility.  Those who are not, have none beyond what they can conjecture.

The man who was saved said: “If you had told me, I would have accepted your treatment with a good grace.”

The horseman answered: “If I had told you, you would not have believed.  Or you would have been paralyzed by fright.  Or run away.  Or gone to sleep again, seeking forgetfulness. And there would not have been time.”

Spurring his horse, the mysterious rider rode away.

I read the tale of The Horseman and the Snake, and I cry out that my heart might be less faint.


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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

Three Pieces Of Advice

Perhaps this young man will receive three pieces of advice

This story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah.  I recalled this story when I wrote about Step 56 of Steps to Knowledge.  As I considered the general spirit of Step 56, I recalled one of the characters in this story.

This story was first found in the ILahi Nama (Divine Book) of Persian poet Farad Al Din Attar (1145-1220).

The story "Three Pieces of Advice" is found in the Divine Book of Farad al-Din Attar

Rumi put it in the Mathnawi (Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning) about 50 years later.

Three Pieces of Advice

A man once caught a bird.  The bird said to him. “I am of no use to you as a captive.  But let me free, and I will give you three valuable pieces of advice.”

Would you accept three pieces of advice from this bird?

The bird promised to give the first piece of advice while still in the man’s grasp, the second when he reached a branch, the third when he had gained the top of a mountain.

The man agreed, and asked for the first piece of advice.

The bird said:

“If you lose something, even if it be valued by you as much as life itself – do not regret it.”

Now the man let the bird go, and it hopped to a branch.

It continued with the second piece of advice:

“Never believe anything which is contrary to sense, without proof.”

Then the bird flew to the mountain-top.  From here it said:

“O unfortunate one!  Within me are two huge jewels, and if you had only killed me they would have been yours!”

The man was anguished at the thought of what he had lost, but he said, “At least now tell me the third piece of advice.”

The bird replied:

“What a fool you are, asking for more advice when you have not given thought to the first two pieces! I told you not to worry about what you had lost, and not to believe in something contrary to sense.  Now you are doing both.  You are believing something ridiculous and grieving because you have lost something!  I am not big enough to have inside me huge jewels.”

“You are a fool.  Therefore you must stay within the usual restrictions imposed on man.”


As I share this story, I recall the Bible proverb, “Like the useless legs of one who is lame, is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (Proverbs 26:7, New International Version)

Three pieces of advice?  Maybe we only need one: wake up!


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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

State Of The Blog Address

Self Evaluation

While the first post was published on October 17, 2012, I consider it close enough to give a brief review of the past year’s efforts.

This is the first time I have ever shared a blog with someone else.  I believe Alisa makes the blog quite a bit more informative and more interesting than it would be otherwise.  I consider having an international, multilingual blog to be an accomplishment in and of itself.

This the 157th post so far.  I’ve written 133 posts, Alisa has written 12 posts in English, and 12 posts in Russian.  In blogging about the 365 steps of Steps to Knowledge, I’ve gotten to Step 51.

Ascending Knowledge welcomed its 4,000th visitor today.  2,862 of those visits were unique.  I consider it remarkable that there were visits from 1,320 different cities in 120 different countries.  It took 281 days to get the first 2,000 visits, and 84 days to get the second 2,000 visits, so visits are definitely on an upward trend.

What did they come for?  The picture of the mosque in Samarkand (from the post about the dervish tale “The Man With The Inexplicable Life”), the poem “Today” by Mary Oliver, the picture of Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and the Mulla Nasrudin story about the Hindustan chili peppers.

Did they stick around?  Some of them did.  The 4,000 visits resulted in 7,349 pageviews.  The bounce rate was 72%, which means roughly 3 out of 4 visitors left after viewing one page.  The 1 out of 4 visitors who stuck around viewed an average of slightly under 4 pages each visit.

Did they like anything Alisa and I wrote?  Some of them did.  The greatest hits are the posts “I Wish To Venture Forth,” “‘Few’ Is Not ‘None,’ ‘Rarely’ Is Not ‘Never,’” and “I Am The Self I Deserve (And Other Self-Esteem Issues).”

Did they inquire further about the New Message from God, or Steps to Knowledge?  Maybe.  I am currently working on tracking referrals, but I was recently told by someone with access to hosting statistics that there were 25 to 30 referrals each month to the New Message from God website.

I believe someone is wondering, “Ok, Douglas, so you’ve blogged about Steps to Knowledge up to Step 51.  How many of the Steps have you actually studied?”  I was on Step 199 when the blog launched, and I am currently studying Step 292.  It may take a while, but it is my vision to one day write a blog post about each step.

Is this blog worth the effort?  Absolutely!

What’s in store for the future?  You’ll find out soon enough, but it seems to be helpful to write a little bit more about some of the other books of the New Message from God besides Steps to Knowledge.  It seems to be helpful to tell a little bit of the tale of the New Message from God community.

What’s inside me regarding Ascending Knowledge: Press on!  The apostle Paul wrote, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 3:13-14, New International Version).

A fellow student of Steps to Knowledge encouraged me with the words “Press on!” after commenting that Ascending Knowledge was a sort of reader’s companion to Steps to Knowledge.  It’s not like Steps to Knowledge really needs a reader’s companion, but I’d like to think that any encouragement I can give helps.

The 11th-Century Persian poet Baba Tahir wrote this poem, which I found in the book The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah. The last line captures how I feel on the inside:

When you have not studied the Celestial Science,
While you have not put foot inside a “Tavern”,
Since you do not know your own profit and loss;
How will you attain the Friends? – on, on!  On, on!


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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

Mulla Nasrudin’s Painful Return On Investment

I have multiple reasons for sharing this.  I enjoyed the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah.  I recently found another Idries Shah book at a local bookseller, “The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin,” which I found to have a very high laugh-per-dollar ratio.  There were a couple of Mulla Nasrudin stories in Tales of the Dervishes.

I liked this particular story, because I had just mentioned in the previous post that it might be a good thing to practice becoming less invested in judging.

Mulla Nasrudin, as everyone knows, comes from a country where fruit is fruit, and meat is meat, and curry is never eaten.

One day he was plodding along a dusty Indian road, having newly descended from the high mountains of Kafiristan, when a great thirst overtook him. “Soon”, he said to himself; I must come across somewhere that good fruit is to be had;

(Kafiristan is a historical name for the modern-day Nuristan Province of Afghanistan)

No sooner were the words formed in his brain than he rounded a corner and saw sitting in the shade of a tree a benevolent-looking man, with a basket in front of him.

Piled high in the basket were huge, shiny red fruits. This is what I need; said Nasrudin. Taking two tiny coppers from the knot at the end of his turban, he handed them to the fruit-seller.

Without a word the man handed him the whole basket, for this kind of fruit is cheap in India, and people usually buy it in smaller amounts.

Nasrudin sat down in the place vacated by the fruiterer, and started to munch the fruits. Within a few seconds, his mouth was burning. Tears streamed down his cheeks, fire was in his throat.

The Mulla went on eating.

An hour or two passed, and then an Afghan Hillman came past.

Nasrudin hailed him. “Brother! These infidel fruits must come from the very mouth of Sheitan!”

“Fool!” said the Hillman. “Hast thou never heard of the chilis of Hindustan? Stop eating them at once or death will surely claim a victim before the sun is down.”

“I cannot move from here,” gasped the Mulla, “until I have finished the whole basketful.”

“Madman! Those fruits belong in curry! Throw them away at once.”

“I am not eating fruit any more,” croaked Nasrudin, “I am eating my money.”


I’m open to the possibility that Nasrudin was “taking one for the team” for the purposes of our instruction.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.