Tag Archives: Hafiz

Sophia and the Universe: Allurement

The process through which the universe unfolds into radiance is our process as well, our story, and our most urgent call in this time. As Jean Houston reminds us: All the powers of the universe are seamlessly one, trying to bring forth radiance. These powers can be understood mystically as within ourselves waiting to assist us to bring forth a world that works for everyone.

Brian Swimme, in his DVD series Powers of the Universe, describes ten interwoven powers: Centration, Allurement, Emergence, Homeostasis, Cataclysm, Synergy, Transmutation, Transformation, Interrelatedness and Radiance. Centration is the coming together in one life of the entire 13.8 billion year process of evolutionary development.

Allurement is what holds everything together. At the heart of the universe, Allurement holds the earth in thrall to the sun, the moon to the earth, the tides to the moon, our very blood to the surges of the sea. The planets are lured by the sun to orbit ceaselessly around it, while our galaxy spins, in harmony with other galaxies, in one great dance of desire and longing.

The universe is bound together in communion, each thing with all the rest. The gravitational bond unites all the galaxies; the electromagnetic interaction binds all the molecules; the genetic information connects all the generations of the ancestral tree of life. (Brian Swimme)

4.5 billion years ago, the earth and the sun discovered one another, coming forth in a powerful field of allurement and attraction. Swimme notes that the action of chlorophyll, the green pigment found in most plants, responsible for absorbing light to provide the energy needed for photosynthesis, only works on our planet. It is an inter-creation with our sun, the earth being shaped by that which it loves. Atoms respond to allurement, becoming stars, becoming part of a gravitational field, becoming themselves a source of allurement even though, Swimme adds, “they have no idea why they are responding.”

After they were birthed, the Magellanic Clouds, nearest neighbour to our Milky Way Galaxy, stopped making stars for eight billion years. Four billion years ago, this luminous mass was drawn into an encounter with the Milky Way that ignited its star-making capacities…it’s been making stars ever since!

On our planet, sexuality began some 300 million years ago and allurement has been developing ever since in life forms. Life wants to deepen the journey that begins with allurement, Swimme says. We can think of ourselves as the place where the universe houses its power of allurement, wanting it to burst into conscious self-awareness. The power of allurement is at work within us. Swimme suggests that if we are attracted, we have already been acted upon; and we are molded by what we love. As with the earth and the sun, through the work of adoration we allow the Beloved to begin to shape who we are.

We need to be aware of the tenderness of the human, remembering that what we’re attracted to is also wounded; it is true of bio-regions as well as of communities and individuals that membranes guard our sensitivities. The intensity of attraction, the power of allurement, can, over time, dissolve these protective membranes, allowing for mutual enhancement and mutual healing.

Our capacity for self-reflection enhances our desire to merge, to be a presence of joy and pleasure, to evoke a depth of feeling and well-being in the other. This desire is so deep that we learn to feel what the beloved is feeling; we desire to be a cause of joy.

And for us humans these powers of love go beyond the partnership of human lovers, expanding into a partnership with the Divine, allowing us to become a presence of love wherever we are: with persons, with other life forms, with the planet herself, through our awareness of the interconnectedness of all of life.

In the process of loving, the Mystics become our friends, our teachers, our guides. They lived in the power of allurement through their love relationship with the Sacred Presence at the heart of the Universe. Writing in the thirteenth century, Mechtild of Magdeburg exults in a passionate love with and for the Holy One:

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless Thou lead me. If Thou wilt that I leap joyfully, then must Thou Thyself first dance and sing! Then will I leap for love, from love to knowledge, from knowledge to fruition, from fruition to beyond all human sense. There will I remain and circle evermore.

Hafiz, the Sufi mystic poet of fourteenth century Persia, teaches us:
Know the true nature of your Beloved. In His loving eyes, your every thought, Word and movement is always, Always beautiful.

As the mystics did, we draw unto ourselves, and are lured towards, the love that holds the universe together. We allure all we require to grow in that love, within the calling, the shape of destiny that is uniquely ours. And we ourselves can be principles of allurement. Again, Hafiz says it well:
There is only one reason we have followed God into this world: To encourage laughter, freedom, dance and love.

Swimme believes that by allowing allurement to unfurl in our consciousness, we can develop:
*passionate absorption in the world of others with a capacity to enter deeply into its reality
* a wide spectrum of feelings and moods because of the ability to absorb the needs and feelings of persons and places
*an amazing capacity to become completely overwhelmed in situations that seem trivial, such as sitting by a pond
* a sensitivity to beauty in all its forms.

The challenge for someone deeply drawn by allurement is to maintain a sense of identity. (Am I a cloud or a raven?) Allurement is balanced by the opposite pull of centration.

Yet if we allow ourselves to be drawn by beauty, releasing ourselves into the field of our allurements, we’ll create a mutually-enhancing lure to beauty. And in doing so, we will discover something that Swimme wrote many years ago in his book The Universe is a Green Dragon: Your allurements draw you into the activity of evoking the life about you.



Swimme tells how he was lured by the wonder of the stars to study physics. One day a student of his changed his major from music to physics. This is how the universe works, Swimme believes. We are captivated by the beauty of the universe. We pursue this beauty. Others are captivated through us.

Jean Houston advises us to have leaky margins, to be able to fall in love with everything. We live then with delight in the other, experiencing the energy and generativity that come with loving.


Walking with Wisdom Sophia

Where do you seek wisdom? Do you have overflowing shelves where recently acquired books hide earlier treasures like the nine layers of settlement in ancient Troy? Do you seek teachers trained in ancient wisdom? Select from among the many speakers now available on-line? Or have you been fortunate enough to find a truly wise teacher who leads you inward to your own source of deep wisdom? If so, you have already found Wisdom: She has already found you.

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.

Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.

She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

(Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-17 Jerusalem Bible)

Once we come to know and trust our inner “Sophia”, we have a treasure within us, and the eyes to recognize Her everywhere. The wisdom of the ages, of the sages, of the poets and the mystics. takes on a vibrant clarity, a singing resonance, for we have an inner lake that catches the light, reflecting to us the heart of reality.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, “The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature” (Skylight Illuminations, 2005) which I have been referencing for the past weeks, has opened my eyes as well as my heart to the myriad facets of Wisdom’s presence in the natural world from its sunlit morning warmth to night’s radiant moonpath stretching across the river, to its wild winds, crashing thunder, its rain suddenly rushing from the skies, a Niagara of unseen source. Within my own life, I have become aware of a presence of Wisdom, showing me the moonlit way through challenges in relationships, difficulties in my work, small or larger questions of “What now?” or “How next?” … for, as The wisdom of Solomon assures us:

Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.

I have experienced (as you must have done at times) how a day can suddenly open out in beauty, revealing patterns unseen until that moment, making sense of the journey of our life in ways we had not understood. Two days ago, reflecting on the work I am called to do in Spirituality, I was led by Wisdom-Sophia to Jean Houston’s talk on the fluidity of time from her Quantum Powers course.

Following Jean’s guidance, I stood before a curtain of time, allowing a moment in my life I had not understood to reappear. Six years ago, I was invited into a new beginning. I have since thought I had missed the moment, had not taken the road shown to me, and somehow lost the gift being offered. Now in a sacred moment, with the assistance of a true Wisdom teacher, I found that the invitation had taken me to just where I needed to be: to this place where I have everything I require for this work among you. I experienced a moment of joy, a recovery of trust, finding the way right here under my feet, a yellow brick road, hiding under a layer of dust, pine needles, dried autumn leaves.

I share this with you, not that you need to know about my life, but that you may know more about your own, learn with Sophia to recognize your path, find the joy of walking in it, companioned by Wisdom.

We live now, as Jean Houston reminds us, in the time of the great confluence, when the wisdom of the ages, from many different sacred traditions, is available to us, along with the newest discoveries of the physicists, who have been called the mystics of our time. What we need is inner guidance to open our hearts to recognize wisdom when it presents itself to us.

Often for me, especially when my spirit is deflated, when the moon of my soul is obscured by clouds, light breaks through with poetry. During such a moment this past week, I came upon these works of Hafiz:
You don’t have to act crazy anymore—
We all know you were good at that.

Now retire, my dear,
From all that hard work you do

Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart.

Look in a clear mountain mirror—
See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior
And the Divine elements
You always carry inside

That infused this Universe with sacred Life
So long ago

And join you Eternally
With all Existence—with God!

(trans. Daniel Ladinsky in “I Heard God Laughing”)

May you too find that clear mountain mirror within, kneel there beside Wisdom-Sophia and be amazed at what you see, O Beautiful Ancient Warrior, bearer of Divine elements.

Unveiling the Mystery of Etain

The Storyteller sits near us in silence, allowing us to absorb the tale of “The Wooing of Etain” with its surprising ending. The silence stretches for such a long while that I am wondering if she means for us to quietly leave the well on Tara Hill. Perhaps she has no more to say to us..

Suddenly she asks:
Shall I speak with you about the deeper meaning of this story?
You know it is about love, about longing, and about the many transformations we pass through in a lifetime. Etain’s first transformation, from a woman into a purple fly, came through the treachery of Fuamnach, just as our transformations sometimes come through treachery, betrayal or cruelty on the part of another.

Her second transformation came through exhaustion, causing her to tumble from the roof of the house of Etar into the wine cup of his wife, entering the woman’s womb. After a gestation of nine months, Etain is reborn as a human baby, daughter of Etar, without memory of her former life. Some of our transformations also may come through exhaustion: women who suddenly cannot keep up the frenetic pace of their lives, who develop an illness or a depression that demands a kind of “rebirth” into a different way of being.

Yet the final transformation, the most important, is wrought by love. Midir’s love for Etain and hers for him work the miracle that reunites them, as they fly over Tara as two white swans. They are transformed by love into love.

Now the Storyteller turns to me and asks, What are the words on your spiral pendant?
I am surprised that she has forgotten, for she asked me this same question on an earlier visit.

As though reading my thoughts, the Storyteller says, I have not forgotten the poem. I ask because it is important that you read the words aloud. They hold the key to the love story I have just told.

Still puzzled, but willing now to allow her to teach us in her own winding way, I say by heart the words of the Sufi poet Hafiz that are carved on my necklace:
There is something holy deep inside of you that is so ardent and awake, That needs to lie down naked next to God.

The Storyteller pauses while the words reverberate around the well’s inner cavern, echoing and re-echoing in our hearts.
Hafiz has given you all the teaching you require. You had these words carved on your necklace because they speak of love, the passionate love of the Holy One for you. Hafiz is teaching you of that immense longing for union that is at the deep heart of this story, the longing that kept Midir seeking Etain for a thousand years, giving finally his riches and his labours after losing in the chess game so that he might contrive a way to win her at last from Eochaid.

The One whom Hafiz calls the Friend, the Beloved, or sometimes God, is the Holy One who yearns so deeply for you, who is so drawn by your longing that he/she comes to where you dance alone, ready to lift you into the arms of Love. The One who loves you is as full of passion, patience, and longing as Midir is for Etain.
But there is yet more…

Hafiz teaches you one more secret. There is deep within you something so sacred, so holy, that it needs to lie down naked next to God…

With a half-smile that is both playful and inscrutable, the Storyteller adds, I could have told you all of that myself when you asked but Hafiz is the better poet.

Now do you understand the story? This is a story of human hunger and longing for love, for deep union. This is a story of the yearning that draws flesh to flesh, that is the allurement that is at the heart of all of life, at the heart of the sacred seeking that first sent humans in quest of the Holy. They sought her among the stars when all the while she lay hidden in the depths of the earth or the deep sea, in the atoms, the cells, the very stuff of their own bodies.

Who really is Etain in the story? In Ireland we name her Aine, or Danu, a name that comes from Anu, the Great Mother of the ancestor gods of the Irish. Aine is ancient and known by many names. She is the womb of life, the vitality in your veins, the sun in your cells. Her breasts are the two hills called the Paps of Anu in Ireland. Her hair flows like the waves, ripples gold like corn. Her eyes hold the starlight, her belly the tors, earth barrows that birth you. Like the cat, the owl, the sow, she eats her young if they are sick or dying. Aine is the cycle of life, the wheel of the seasons.

And having stunned us with these disclosures, she is suddenly gone! We sit like carvings for what seems a very long while, then shake off the amazement, dive into the pool and swim to the other side. Lifted by a current of water, we make our way back up through the well to Tara’s hillside.

Naming the Presence of Love

Prompted by the Storyteller’s questions, I have been searching my heart-memory. There are lines from the poetry of Hafiz that have come to me as though spoken by a Holy Loving Presence for whom I have no name. Hafiz calls that presence simply “the Friend”.

I speak his lines:

Ask the Friend for love,
Ask again.
For I have learned that every heart will get
What it prays for most.

Suddenly I recall the one poem by Hafiz that I do know fully, one I laboured to learn by heart.

There is one more, I tell you both, one I love so much that I think I can remember all the lines:

I saw you dancing last night,
On the roof of your house all alone.
I felt your heart longing for the Friend.
I saw you whirling beneath the soft bright rose
that hung from an invisible stem in the sky.
So I began to change into my best clothes
in hopes of joining you,
Even though I live a thousand miles away.
And if you had spun like an immaculate sphere
just two more times,
And bowed again so sweetly to the east,
You would have found God and me
standing so near and lifting you into our arms.
I saw you dancing last night near the roof of this world.
Hafiz feels your soul and mine calling for our Beloved.

I wait for a few heartbeats before I say: That’s really as much as I remember from Hafiz. Maybe I didn’t even get all the words exactly right.

I look directly at the Storyteller, impatience rising in me as I say: Now, will you please tell us about this story?

The Storyteller smiles, speaks calmly, apparently unaware of my annoyance with her:

Hafiz has given you all the teaching you require. I notice that you selected the poems that speak of love. The story of the Skeleton Woman, like Hafiz’ poetry, is about the passionate love of the Holy One for you. Hafiz is teaching you of that immense longing for union that is at the deep heart of this story, the longing that called out to the fisherman from the depths of the sea, though he did not know who called to him.

The One whom Hafiz calls the Friend, the Beloved, or sometimes God, is the Holy One who yearns so deeply for you, who loves your stumbling dance steps, who is so drawn by your longing that he/she comes to where you dance alone, ready to lift you into the arms of Love.

And then this Sufi poet teaches you one more secret. There is deep within you something so sacred, so holy, that it needs to lie down naked next to God.

I could have told you all of that myself when you asked, the Storyteller adds, but Hafiz is the better poet.

Now do you understand the story? It is about the human hunger, the longing for love, for deep union. This is a story of the yearning that draws flesh to flesh, the allurement that is at the heart of all of life, at the heart of the sacred seeking that first sent humans in quest of the Holy. They sought her among the stars when all the while she lay hidden in the depths of the marsh, in the bed of the sea, in the atoms, the cells, the very stuff of their own bodies.

There is utter silence in the well after she says this. You and I gaze at her, amazed.

You are the one who asks the question, the question I warned you, on our first visit here, not to ask, believing she would not answer.

Now I, too, need to know.

Who are you? you ask. The question spins in the well like a whirling dervish.

For answer, the Storyteller says, Bring your cup and I will pour out God.

That, too, is Hafiz! I say to her. But who are YOU really?

I am every particle of dust and wheat – you and I
Are ground from the Holy One’s Body. I am rioting at your door;
I am spinning in midair like golden falling leaves
Trying to win your glance.
I am sweetly rolling against your walls and your shores
All night, even though you are asleep. I am singing from
The mouth of animals and birds honoring our
Beloved’s promise and need: to let
you know the Truth.

I watch you open your eyes wide in surprise as she says all this.

But I am not impressed. I know she has not revealed anything.
That, too, is a poem from Hafiz, I say.
I begin at once to make my way back up out of the well, not even looking to see if you are ready to come. I do not say goodbye to the Storyteller.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes gave us the “The Skeleton Woman” story and teachings in her book, “Women Who Run With the Wolves”, Ballantine Books New York 1992

Daniel Ladinsky brought Hafiz alive for our time by translating his poetry. “My Sweet, Crushed Angel” is from the CD “Hafiz: The Scent of Light”, trans. Daniel Ladinsky, published by Sounds True, Boulder CO, USA, 2002; you can also find this poem in Daniel Ladinsky “Love Poems from God” Penguin Compass, New York, 2002; “I Saw You Dancing” and all other excerpts of Hafiz’ poetry quoted here are from “The Subject Tonight Is Love” translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Penguin Compass New York, 1996, 2003

Seeking the Sophia

I long for You so much

I follow barefoot Your frozen tracks

That are high in the mountains

That I know are years old.

I long for You so much

I have even begun to travel

Where I have never been before.
(in Hafiz The Subject Tonight Is Love trans. Daniel Ladinsky)

As we set out to find Sophia, the missing feminine aspect of the Holy, we prepare for a long journey, following tracks that are millennia old. We learn to be adept at time travel, at exploring deep dusty caverns of pre-history, at unravelling, then reweaving, threads of ancient stories.

Sophia is nowhere precisely, yet everywhere subtly. Mythologies of many cultures abound with tales of her presence, her power, her sufferings, her diminishments. Old fairy tales hold glimpses of her that are both tender and terrifying. We will need to look into sacred wells, old ritual sites, ruined temples and sanctuaries. We will carefully examine fragments of poetry, shards of pottery, pieces of drums, tiny perfect feminine figures carved of stone, buried in the depths of the earth.

We are living today in the time of the great recovery. What has been hidden is being revealed to us. Scholars of ancient civilizations are writing of their findings: the traces of a sacred feminine presence within the stories, myths and ritual practices of people long vanished.

In “A Brief History of The Celts”, Peter Berresford Ellis writes of the Great Mother Goddess of the Ancient Celts, revealing the connection between the Celtic Goddess and the great rivers of Ireland, a sacred connection also found in India’s mythology:
“… the Celts believed their origins lay with the mother goddess Danu, ‘divine waters from heaven’. She fell from heaven and her waters created the Danuvius (Danube), having watered the sacred oak tree Bile. From there sprang the pantheon of the gods who are known as the Tuatha de Danaan (Children of Danu) in Irish and the Children of Don in Welsh myths.” (p. 162)
The story associated with the Danuvius, which is arguably the first great Celtic sacred river, has similarities with myths about the Boyne, from the goddess Boann, and the Shannon, from the goddess Sionan in Ireland. More important, it bears a close resemblance to the Hindu goddess Ganga, deity of the Ganges. Both Celts and Hindus worshipped in the sacred rivers and made votive offerings there. In the Vedic myth of Danu, for she exists as a deity in Hindu Mythology as well, the goddess appears in the famous Deluge story called “The Churning of the Ocean.” (p.7)
Celtic writer Jen Delyth writes further of the goddess Anu, also known as Danu and Aine:

An ancient figure, venerated under many names, she is known as the womb of life. She is the spark and vitality of life. She is the seed of the sun in our veins. The Great Earth Mother is more ancient than the god of the Celtic Druids. She is the Mother whose breasts are the Paps of Anu in Ireland. Her hair is the wild waves, the golden corn. Her eyes are the shining stars, her belly the round tors or earth barrows from which we are born. Like the cat, the sow, the owl, she eats her young if they are sick or dying. She is the cycle of life, the turning of the seasons.”

In rivers, waves, and corn, in stars and earth barrows, in the very seasons of our land, this sacred presence is embodied, immersed, implanted in the universe, around, above, beneath, within us.

In “Women of the Celts”, Jean Markale offers an overview of the decline of the Sacred Feminine presence as the Jewish/Christian religions became dominant, but he also hints at how her presence survives:
Within the patriarchal framework (goddesses) were often obscured, tarnished and deformed, and submerged into the depth of the unconscious. But they do still exist, if only in dormant state, and sometimes rise triumphantly to rock the supposedly immovable foundations of masculine society. The triumph of Yahweh and Christ was believed sanctified forever, but from behind them reappears the disturbing and desirable figure of the Virgin Mary with her unexpected names: Our Lady of the Water, Our Lady of the Nettles, Our Lady of the Briars,
Our Lady of the Mounds, Our Lady of the Pines. But in spite of the veneration accorded her over the centuries and the public declaration of successive dogmas related to Mary, the authorities of the Christian Church have always made her a secondary character, overshadowed and retiring, a model of what women ought to be. Now the pure and virginal servant of man, the wonderful mother who suffers all heroically, she is no longer the Great Goddess before whom the common herd of men would tremble, but Our Lady of the Night.”     (Jean Markale “Women of the Celts” p. 86)

Our Lady of the Night! What a lovely, appropriate name for the presence we seek, the One who has so many different names… yet is being rebirthed now in our time, from the “womb of this present darkness”.

The ways we are to seek her may seem arduous, but the starting place is deep within our souls.

As Hafiz hints in his poem, the search begins with our longing for her.