Hazrat Inayat Khan recognised all artistic endeavour, in whatever medium, as a way of expressing the divine ideal, and through the centuries many great Sufis have given the world a treasury of inspiring poetry. In this series of lectures our Master considers the origins of poetry, and some of the ways in which Sufi poets express their mystical insights.
There is a saying that a poet is a prophet, and this saying has great significance and hidden meaning. There is no doubt that although poetry is not necessarily prophecy, prophecy is born in poetry. If one were to say that poetry is a body that is adopted by the spirit of prophecy, it would not be wrong. Wagner [the German composer –ed.] has said that noise is not necessarily music, and the same thing can be said about poetry. A verse written in rhyme and meter is not necessarily true poetry. Poetry is an art, a music expressed in the beauty and harmony of words. No doubt much of the poetry one reads is meant either as a pastime or for amusement; but real poetry comes from the dancing of the soul. No one can make the soul dance unless the soul itself is inclined to dance. Also, no soul can dance which is not alive.
In the Bible it is said that no one will enter the kingdom of God whose soul is not born again. Being born means being alive. It is not only a gay disposition or an external inclination to merriment and pleasure that is the sign of a living soul. External joy and amusement may come simply through the external being of man. However, even in this outer joy and happiness, there is a glimpse of the inner joy and happiness, and that is a sign of the soul having been born again.
What makes the soul alive? It makes itself alive when it strikes its depths instead of reaching outward. The soul, after coming up against the iron wall of this life of falsehood, turns back within itself; it encounters itself, and this is how it becomes living. In order to clarify this idea, I should like to take as an example a man who goes out into the world – a man with thought, feeling, energy, desire, ambition and enthusiasm – to live and work in life. Because of the actual nature of life, his experiences will make him feel constantly up against an iron wall in whatever direction he strikes out. The nature of man is such that when he meets with an obstacle, he struggles. He lives in the outer life and he goes on struggling. He does not know any other part of life, for he lives only on the surface. Then there is another man who is sensitive because he has a sympathetic and tender heart, and every blow coming from the outer world, instead of making him want to hit back outwardly, makes him want to strike at himself inwardly. His soul, after being born on this earth, seems to be living, but in reality is in a grave. However, now his soul becomes awakened by that action. Once the soul is awakened in this way, it expresses itself outwardly, whether in music, art, poetry, actions, or in whatever ways it wishes to express itself.
In this way, a poet is born. There are two signs which reveal the poet. One sign is imagination; the other sign is feeling. Both are essential on the spiritual path. A man, however learned and good, who yet lacks these two qualities, can never arrive at a satisfactory result, especially on the spiritual path.
To be continued…