Monday, 3 September 2012

Unmarked Boxes (Rumi)

Grieve not, all that’s gone
will come again in other forms –
Have no doubt of this!

Did not child find joy
In its nursing and its milk?
Now sucks honeyed wine!

Joy unconditioned
Entering, moves from box to box,
From water to clay.

From the sky it pours
Its grace into the rosebed,
And earth lifts its head.

Now water, now bread,
Now beauty, now horse well-bred,
What if it’s unveiled?

It peeps and shatters
All the idols, that or this.
Isn’t it like dreams?

While the body sleeps,
The soul moves in other forms
And you say, “I dreamt!

I was a cypress,
A bed of tulips, blossoms
Of rose and jasmine.”

Then the soul returns,
To its abode, cypress gone!
Let that forewarn you!

I don’t mean trouble,
What I speak, God speaks fairer
Don’t relinquish faith!

With mantic fervour,
All speak of bread of heaven
But none dare taste it.

Gaze, O soul, upon
My starry heart to see Him
In pale reflection.

Painting: Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid's Garden by John William Waterhouse.

Psyche represents the human spirit or soul, and in mythology she was represented as a princess so beautiful that people adored her instead of Venus. To put an end to this sacrilege, Venus sent her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest creature he could find. but when Cupid saw her he fell in love and forgot his mother's command. They became lovers, though Cupid forbade Psyche ever to look upon him. When at last she did, he fled in fear of what Venus would do to him in revenge. Psyche roamed the earth in search of her lover, facing obstacles thrown in her way by Venus to prove that she was worthy of her son. One of these tasks involved a golden box which she was forbidden from opening. When she did open it, she fell into a deep sleep of death. Eventually, however, Jupiter agreed that the lovers could be united for eternity. The couple's daughter was named Voluptas ("pleasure"). In Greek mythology, Venus is represented by Aphrodite, Cupid by Eros and Jupiter by Zeus.
Classical Mythology: the Ancient Myths and Legends of Greece and Rome.
I don't see an immediate connection between the poem of Rumi and the myth of Psyche, but perhaps one will dawn on me. They are both concerned with beauty. Perhaps another myth is relevant, the opening of Pandora's Box. Is the rending of the veils a point of both crisis and revelation, when we see beneath the many forms of beauty to the thing itself? It is a quest... of curiosity...

Additional thoughts on the connection... maybe first to seek beauty as St John of the Cross says, for the desires of the heart which come in different forms are idols for this one desire, to know beauty. As Rumi says, not to mistake the idol or box, for the grace which moves within it from one form to another.

Now Venus=Aphrodite represents beauty and she's upset that people are loving Psyche, or things of the mind, instead of the real goddess... herself! So she sends Eros to make the phantasm of the mind attracted to something ugly. Instead of which the mind falls in love with Cupid=Eros, it falls in love with love itself. The mind becomes hooked on love, but estranged from beauty's source, Venus herself. The forbidden box is supposed to have contained beauty from the underworld for Venus. But Psyche was tempted to open it to take some herself. But the box is empty. Beauty is not really in the box. The box is merely graced with its reflection. But it's nice she's forgiven her error.

The child of the mind and desire, Psyche and Eros, is pleasure. That's nice too! As opposed to suffering in the Buddhist conception. Though they are no doubt two sides of the same coin.

I did not have to ask my heart what it wanted
because of all the desires that I have ever known,
just one did I cling to,
for it was the essence of all desire:
to know beauty.

—St. John of the Cross


  1. A great article, and good questions asked. Good to see you about, Okei. Much (brotherly) love to you.

  2. A good tale

    I don't know if I see a strong connection there. Still enjoyed it.

  3. There doesn't always have to be a connection. We can just appreciate each Poem on its own merits. I always enjoyed Rumi
    I particular like the first stanza for it fits with my own personal beliefs.
    There is a Buddhist Verse that says:

    "We will meet today
    We will meet again tomorrow
    We will meet at the source every moment
    We meet each other in all forms of life"

    I meet Rumi in agreement with the first stanza, the balance of his poem
    I appreciate it for its beauty.
    Thank you Okei

  4. Yes! The first stanza is also referring to us here on Multiply, which was part of what inspired this I think. We are being chucked out of here, but this is just the box...

    I had further thoughts on the Psyche story (which is the same myth as Beauty and the Beast, Psyche must see her lover, and when she sees that it is Eros, then their meetings must end... lol, women just can't help looking as you were saying over at ipernity...)

    But back to the myth. Psyche without Eros is lost. In other words, mind without desire is lost (according to this myth!) Psyche with desire gives birth to pleasure in the above myth. That's interesting, because we know from Buddhist teachings that mind with desire gives birth to pain! And... they are both right! Pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin. Better pleasure and pain than to be lost I think, so in that light

    Buddha's first noble truth is about recognising the suffering (read pleasure and pain both) inherent to life.

    Buddha's second noble truth to see how desire begets this suffering.

    So everyone agrees... east and west... know desire! (Both Rumi's poem and Buddhist teachings about tracing things back to their true source...)

    According to the St. John of the Cross poem that ends the above blog, what desire conceals is beauty! (This is what moves from box to box, but can never be grasped from out of the box.)

    And the highest beauty is of a well lived life, or the eightfold path.

  5. Excellent analysis Okei.. I like it. Thank you very much.

    I' had no idea you were a lover of Poetry. We never know do we? As the old saying goes "you can''t tell a book by its cover" Anyway, I will be dropping in from time to time to read more. And, please come and visit me at Ipernity. I think you and Bryce have a lot in common, and you would probably enjoy him. He checks in daily and its so nice getting to know him.