Arcane Ruminations
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2001-2

Special Plates

Notice how each particle moves.
Notice how everyone has just arrived here from a journey.
Notice how each wants a different food.
Notice how the stars vanish as the sun comes up, and how all streams stream toward the ocean.
Look at the chefs preparing special plates for everyone, according to what they need.
Look at this cup that can hold an ocean.
Look at those who see the face.
Look through Sham's eyes into the water that is entirely jewels.

Rumi (1207-1273)

Rumi was born September 30, 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan. His father, Bahuddin Walad, was a theologian, jurist and mystic. Islamic mysticism is called Sufism. Upon his father's death, Rumi took over the position of sheikh in the dervish community in Konya, Turkey. His family had emigrated there to flee the threat of invading Mongol armies in approximately 1215. He created a new lineage called the Melevi Order. He was the head of his religious school, a judge and a profound philosopher.

In the late fall of 1244 Rumi's life was forever changed when he met a stranger named Shams of Terbiz. Shams was a dervish who had been wandering through the Middle East looking for a true friend, someone who could endure his company. Shams and Rumi became inseparable and conversed intently for months. The intensity of their connection made others in Rumi's spiritual community feel jealous and neglected. Shams sensed this and disappeared from Rumi's life.

It was during this first separation that Rumi began writing his poetry, listening to music and dancing by whirling round and round for hours. He whirled around a pillar in his mosque, as he leaned back and twirled, poetry poured out of him in an ecstatic stream. His followers imitated him and whirled for the first part of the dance around a red sheepskin which represented Shams, and for the last half around Rumi. The Melevi became known as the Whirling Dervishes.

Shams returned to Rumi's life and married into his household. He mysteriously disappeared again on December 5, 1248 and was never seen again. It is generally thought that he was murdered by Rumi's son. Rumi searched for his partner in mystical Friendship and finally realized that he and Shams were the same, they had a complete union. Shams essence spoke through Rumi, he was writing the poems, they had achieved annihilation in the Friend.

"Love is the religion, the universe its book."

Rumi's ecstatic poetry is a spiritual satisfaction and some of his poems capture and reflect the spiritual essence of the Major Arcana in Tarot. His poetry has beauty, dignity, longing, grace, pleasure and love sweet love, as bittersweet as love always is.

Key 0 The Fool

Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being

Key 1 The Magician

The Red Shirt

Has anyone seen the boy who used to come here?
Round-faced troublemaker, quick to find a joke, slow to be serious.
Red shirt,
perfect co-ordination, sly,
strong muscles, with things always in his pocket: reed flute,
ivory pick, polished and ready for his talent.
You know that one.
Have you heard stories about him?
Pharoah and the whole Egyptian world
collapsed for such a Joseph.
I'd gladly spend years getting word
of him, even third or fourth hand.

Key II The High Priestess

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Key III The Empress


Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you are bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralysed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

Key IV The Emperor

The Core of Masculinity
The core of masculinity does not derive
from being male,
nor friendliness from those who console.

Your old grandmother says, "Maybe you shouldn't
go to school. You look a little pale."

Run when you hear that.
A father's stern slaps are better.

Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.

He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open.

Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.

We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us afraid of how we were.

Key V The Hierophant

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

Key 6 The Lovers

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

Key 7 The Chariot

In a boat down a fast running creek,
it feels like trees on the bank
are rushing by. What seems

to be changing around us
is rather the speed of our craft leaving this world.

Key VIII Strength

The Far Mosque

The place Solomon made to worship in,
called the Far Mosque, is not built of earth
and water and stone, but of intention and wisdom
and mystical conversation and compassionate action.

Every part of it is intelligence and responsive
to every other. The carpet bows to the broom.
The door knocker and the door swing together
like musicians. This heart sanctuary does
exist, but it can't be described. Why try!

Solomon goes there every morning and gives guidance
with words, with musical harmonies, and in actions,
which are the deepest teaching. A prince is just
a conceit until he does something with generosity.

Key IX The Hermit

The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question
nor is it bought with going to amazing places.

Until you've kept your eyes
and your wanting still for fifty years,
you don't begin to cross over from confusion.

Key X The Wheel of Fortune

A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn.
Head unaware of feet,
and feet head. Neither cares.
They keep turning.

Key XI Justice

Gnats Inside the Wind

Some gnats come from the grass to speak with Solomon.

"O Solomon you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don't get
any littler than us! We are tiny metaphors
for frailty. Can you defend us?"

"Who has mistreated you?"

"Our complaint is against the wind."

"Well" says Solomon, "you have pretty voices,
you gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
to just one side. I must hear both litigants."

"Of course," agreed the gnats.

"Summon the East Wind!" calls out Solomon,
and the wind arrives almost immediately.

What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? Gone.

Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
before the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
where are the seekers? First there's dying,
then union, like gnats inside the wind.

Key XII The Hanged Man

Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloudcover thick. I try to stay
just above the surface, yet I'm already under
and living within the ocean.

Key XIII Death

Dissolver of Sugar

Dissolver of sugar, dissolve me,
if this is the time.
Do it gently with a touch of a hand, or a look.
Ever morning I wait at dawn. That's when
it's happened before. Or do it suddenly
like an execution. How else
can I get ready for death?

You breathe without a body like a spark
You grieve, and I begin to feel lighter.
You keep me away from your arm,
but the keeping away is pulling me in.

Key XIV Temperance

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain, both.
We are the cold sweet water and the jar that pours.

Key XV The Devil

Someone who goes with half a loaf of bread
to a small place that fits like a nest around him,
someone who wants no more, who's not himself
longed for by anyone else,

He is a letter to everyone. You open it.
It says, "Live."

Key XVI The Tower

A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
The night will pass.
Then we have work to do.

Key XVII The Star

Just Finishing Candle

A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment it has no shadow.

It is nothing but a tongue of light describing a refuge.

Look at this just finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,

the pride and the shame we claim from those.

Key XVIII The Moon

Sometimes I forget completely

Sometimes I forget completely what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad energy everywhere.
My story gets told in various ways: a romance, a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number, it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow, are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don't come near me out of curiousity, or

Key XIX The Sun

Some nights stay up till dawn,
as the moon sometimes does for the sun.
Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way
of a well, then lifted out into light.

Key XX Judgment

On Resurrection Day

On Resurrection Day your body testifies against you.
Your hand says, "I stole money."
Your lips, "I said meanness."
Your feet, "I went where I shouldn't."
Your genitals, "Me too."

They will make your praying sound hypocritical.
Let the bodies doings speak openly now,
without your saying a word,
as a student's walking behind a teacher
says, "This one knows more clearly than I the way."

Key XXI The World

The way of love is not a subtle argument.

The door there is devastation.

Birds make great sky circles for their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they're given wings.


The Essential Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks
1998 Quality Paper Back Bookclub
by arrangement with HarperSanFrancisco

Tarot of the Sephiroth
By Josephine Mori and Jill Stockwell
Deck created by Dan Staroff
US Games Systems

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This page was created December 22, 2001.