Hazrat Inayat: Poetry, the Song of the Soul

The following address was given by Hazrat Inayat Khan to the Women’s Press Club in Los Angeles on March 16 1926.  What is very interesting is that he illustrates the use of poetry to give a mystical message by words from the Vadan–although he does not identify ‘the poet’, nor would he wish to, for he felt that the Gayan and Vadan were not ‘his’ in an authorial sense, coming rather from the Unseen Source.  It is for that reason that in the Universal Worship service, this book is never referred to as ‘the Gayan of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan’ or anything similar.

I consider it my great happiness and privilege to have this occasion of meeting you all here and speaking a few words before you. As it is said, “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” This afternoon we meet here.

Poetry is considered in the Orient as a song of the soul, as the dance of the spirit. It is therefore that some thinkers in the Western World have said that the poet is a prophet. And the East has believed the same. But I would add to this saying that a poet is not necessarily a prophet, but a prophet is certainly a poet. And for ages all those who have come to the world when needed, they have wakened humanity by the wisdom they gave, and most often that wisdom was expressed in the realm of poetry. The teachings of Buddha, Rama, Krishna, and the teachings of the ancient prophets, they have been given in poetry. But the wise of the ancient times spoke in poetry. In other words, whatever they said, it was in some way or the other in a beautiful poetic form.

That truth was always given with beauty. Is poetry not music? It has its own rhythm, its own tone, and it has the melody and harmony of music in it. And where does it come from? It comes from the life, from nature. The moment the heart of the poet is wakened and the soul is born again, the poet begins to see life differently. What we call accident is no longer accident to him. It is all designed, it is all planned beforehand. All that we call birth and death, before a thinker and poet there is no such a thing as birth and death. It is one continual life, only it takes a form of birth and death. But behind this there is continuity.

For the poet, belief in God is no longer a belief. For the thinker, the seer, it is a reality. It is not only the living beings who speak to him; the trees and plants, the nature speaks to him. And therefore all seems to the poet living. At this time of materialism and ever-growing commercialism we are losing that spirit of poetry which lifted man to the higher spheres, and that poetry which was life-giving and inspiring. Today when we say, “Will this take, [i.e. ‘will it take hold’, ‘will it make an impression’ –ed.] will people like it, will it be accepted by publishers,” we cover our inspiration, and the development of the spirit is hindered by it. And in this way at the present time there are many who long to express their soul’s inspiration and yet they cannot always do so freely. The conditions in which we live today are so difficult that they stand very often as obstacles in our way. But at the same time the day when the poet begins to think, “Poetry is a divine gift, it is inspiration, I am only a tool, an instrument in the hands of God, it is only an expression of the spirit, it is my wish to express it, in as beautiful form as possible,” from that day begins his work regardless of worldly success and appreciation. Then the poetry becomes a prayer, his work becomes a religion, it is sacred. When life begins to speak, it speaks in the form of music.

There is rhythm in nature. If it were not for rhythms, there would not be so many seasons. All have their rhythm, their coming of the morning, of the night, the passing of the week, the month, and the changing of seasons; the rising and falling of the waves, all show this rhythm of nature. The soul begins to live, and it is the life of the soul, that innermost life, which is divine heritage in man, when that begins to express itself, that is poetry. It is not an exaggeration if I were to say that poetry is a step further than religion, for what religion teaches, the poetry expresses it. By religious belief one believes in certain things. In poetic expression that is revealed.

I will read a verse, written on the wakening of the poetic inspiration. That the moment the poet begins to see God revealed in all things, he says:
Every form I see is Thine own form, my Lord,
And every sound I hear is Thine own voice.
In the perfume of flowers I perceive the fragrance of Thy spirit.
In every word spoken to me I hear Thy voice, my Lord.
All that toucheth me is Thine own touch.
In everything I taste, I enjoy the savour of Thy delicious spirit.
In every place I feel Thy presence, Beloved.
In every word that falleth on my ears I hear Thy message.
Everything that toucheth me, thrilleth me with the joy of Thy kiss.
Wherever I roam I meet Thee, wherever I reach, I find Thee, my Lord.
Wherever I look I see Thy glorious vision;
Whatever I touch, I touch Thy beloved hand.
Whomsoever I see, I see Thee in his soul;
Whoever aught giveth to me, I take it from Thee.
To whomsoever I give, I humbly offer it to Thee, Lord.
Whoever cometh to me, it is Thou who cometh.
On whomever I call, I call on Thee.

And when the thinker goes still further, he sees God in this light:
When Thou didst sit upon Thy throne with a crown upon thy head,
I did prostrate myself upon the ground and called thee my Lord.
When Thou didst stretch out Thy hands in blessing over me,
I knelt and called Thee, my Master.
When Thou didst raise me from the ground, holding me with Thine arms,
I drew closer to Thee and called Thee my Beloved.
But when Thy caressing hands held my head next to Thy glowing heart and Thou didst kiss me,
I smiled and called Thee myself.

And when the poet goes still further in the vision of God he says,
Thy Light has illuminated the dark chambers of my mind.
Thy love is rooted in the depths of my heart.
Thine own eyes are the light of my soul.
Thy power worketh behind my action.
Thy peace alone is my life’s repose.
Thy will is behind my every impulse.
Thy voice is audible in the words I speak.
Thine own image is my countenance.
My body is but a cover over Thy soul;
My life is Thy very breath, my Beloved,
And my self is Thine own Being.

God bless you.

One Reply to “Hazrat Inayat: Poetry, the Song of the Soul”

  1. Shamsher van Hees

    Beautiful words to read but dificult to believe and also to realise in daily live. But these are true words in my feelings.
    My mind/ego asks me who do you think you are?
    I will try to walk daily with this Raga from the Gayan in nature between the spring flowers. That will help making this poem a reality.


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