Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Rumi was passionately devoted to his spiritual teacher, referred to both as “Shams” and the “Friend.” Yet, if one reads carefully, it may be seen that what he longs for is actually something inside himself: something he experiences in the presence of the Friend. Although Rumi is not writing of physical love, sensual imagery in his verse heightens its appeal. His metaphors often convey the impassioned spirit’s longing for union. Thus, he adores Shams because of the awakening of consciousness Shams’ physical presence affords him. Within that open inner space, according to Rumi, dwells bliss. His poetry proclaims vulnerability as the essence of humanness, connecting us all.

The body, paradoxically, becomes a sacred conduit for the felt presence of the soul. Sensual metaphors paradoxically stand for spiritual realities, but still evoke beauty in sensations, nature, and connections with others; in other words, ironically, in Rumi’s work, the senses do possess a kind of sacredness in and of themselves, playing a vital role, in these poems, in providing a bridge between unconscious and conscious living. The speaker returns again and again to expressing longing, even cultivating and welcoming it, as a means of moving past the illusion of disconnectedness. The body, ultimately discarded in death, becomes for Rumi, then, the temporary temple of the spirit, the sensory avenue to higher awareness.
I. Introduction: Rumi–perhaps the most mystical of mystical poets—a best-selling poet in America–expresses, again and again, the experience of exquisite longing in his work. Longing, in his lyrics, is the real and even desirable (though uncomfortable) response to the core human condition: vulnerability. A place of higher consciousness dwells within the inner reaching for connection, surrendering to perpetual vulnerability in the face of mortality. Thus, Rumi’s work articulates the rational intellect’s inability to resolve all of life’s uncertainties. How, then, do these poems depict the relationship between the senses and the spirit, the body and the mind? How is knowledge accessed or arrived at in Rumi? Compare and/or contrast this theme to the same in Enheduanna, Chinese philosophy, or to the Greek thinkers’ approach?