According to the myth related by Aristophanes in Plato’s ‘Symposium’, humans were originally globular beings with two faces and four legs. Because they were so unruly, Zeus sought to weaken them by dividing them into two. Ever since their division, humans have been longing for their other half.
There is an eternal wisdom woven into this myth, which Sufi’s seekers are still unravelling to this day, as evident in Rumi’s poem,
Hearken to this Reed forlorn,
Breathing, even since ‘twas torn,
From its rushy bed, a strain
Of impassioned love and pain.
The secret of my song, though near,
None can see and none can hear.
Oh, for a friend to know the sign
And mingle all his soul with mine!
‘Tis the flame of Love that fired me,
‘Tis the wine of Love inspired me.
Wouldst thou learn how lovers bleed,
Hearken, hearken to the Reed!
It is our ‘divided other half’, this rushy bed’, this ‘secret of the song’, that we so crave, particularly in this modern world that concentrates almost solely on the half of us that is in the materialistic world, whilst forgetting that we have a spirit, a soul – a neglected half. As the ancient Greeks knew, we will never be deeply happy and at peace, unless we begin the quest to discover this other half of ourselves.
The Sufis have always been, and still are the Masters of revealing this ‘secret of the song’ to their students, much like when Ali Baba stood in front of the cave and was given the magical words, “Open sesame’. He was given an opening to the cave full of the most unimaginable treasures – an allegory for the ‘cave of treasures’ that reside within each one of us. And as we go about our lives, the pressures of modern day living make us one of those that ‘none can see and none can hear’ their souls that are craving to reveal their treasure houses to each one of us.
The Sufis are called the ‘people of the heart’ because the heart of the seeker lies at the centre of Sufi teaching. It is possible to make a real connection between your heart and your mind and body, that connects you to the world around you and ultimately to God. This is the process that the Ali Baba story is describing.
It is due to this heart connection, that Sufism is often called the ‘way of love’.
Whilst concerned with the spiritual well-being of a person, Sufism takes a practical approach to life, including family life, relationships and having to work for a living. It embraces the different aspects of life and expects that if we’re improving our spiritual welfare, then this should translate into an improvement in our everyday life. The Sufi way is to do well in your job, to have a happy home-life and to generally introduce harmony and happiness into your life.
Consequently, the Sufi way is a balanced approach to life – one that makes a person whole again.