On The Music Box: Radio Free EarthRites.
Is it Thursday? Week has flown.
This is a large edition…
3 articles (with one about our guest Poet)
Poetry: Annemarie Schimmel
Hmmmmm. Plants that behave like humans… a bit this time on Sufism, and related subjects. I discovered Annemarie Schimmel’s work on a Sufi site. Intrigued I dug around. What an amazing woman! Great Poetry as well.
More at ya later on.
Go ahead, Drop It!
What lurks beneath – flesh-sucking sex fiends
Plants behave like humans: Don Burke
Plants are not unlike humans. They can talk to each other and even call in reinforcements when the going gets tough.
Who says so? Australian gardener Don Burke and Australian National University chemistry Professor Ben Selinger, in reviewing research on plants over the past 10 years, have come to the conclusion that many plants have human qualities.
They say plants can communicate with each other by using a range of chemical signals.
“If a plant muncher such as a caterpillar or even a koala starts chewing on a plant, the plant will start sending chemicals to its leaves in an effort to repel the chewer,” Mr Burke said.
“Nearby plants will also start emitting these same chemicals, anticipating that they’ll also be attacked.”
Mr Burke, who writes about the phenomena in an upcoming issue of his gardening magazine, also said plants can release chemicals which attracts certain insects to protect them.
“So essentially they call in the cavalry, they call in good insects to attack the ones that are attacking them,” he said.
Scientists had now identified the genes responsible for the action and were trying to combine it with other plants, Mr Burke said.
The breakthrough, published in the journal Science last year, suggested gardeners and farmers may not have to use pesticides any more, he said.
“It has huge implications for the world,” Mr Burke said.
“In years ahead, instead of pouring vast amounts of toxic chemicals all over the world and therefore ourselves in one form or another, we should be able to add these genes, which are naturally occurring genes in plants, to other plants, so that they can repel insects themselves.”
Mr Burke said plants also used a lot of other human qualities.
“Venus Fly Traps or sensitive plants can move, pitchers plants can eat animals, peaches and cherry for instance can count the number of cold days each year before they produce their leaves in spring,” he said.
Prof Selinger described the overall picture of the research that had been done as astounding.
“Plants have always been sort of relegated as primitive compared to animals and its just not true,” he said.
“But there is little research in the area. We are such an agricultural country … I think more research could be conducted.”
Account of the Sarmoun Brotherhood
Desmond R. Martin
Not so long ago I found myself walking through a mulberry grove in what might have been an English garden if one did not look upwards to the frowning crags of the Hindu Kush, or at the robes of the monks of the Sarmoun community.
Established here in North Afghanistan for many centuries, the brotherhood (and the sisterhood with which it is affiliated) maintain this settlement as a sort of country retreat, where aspirants are trained in the ancient arts of service and self-discipline characteristic of the cult. Elderly monks and lay members, perhaps from as far afield as Tunisa or Armenia, make their last pilgrimage here, to the Shrine of Musa the Patient, the pilgrimage of retirement.
The Sarmouni (the name means ‘The Bees’) have often been accused of being Christians in disguise, Buddhists, Moslem sectarians, or of harbouring even more ancient beliefs, derived, some say, from Babylonia. Others claim that their teaching has survived the Flood; but which flood I cannot say.
Like their namesakes, however, members of the order are not argumentative, being concerned only in discharging the terms of their motto: ‘Work produces a Sweet Essence’ (Amal misazad yak zaati shirin).
With only one break at the time of Gengiz Khan’s irruption across the Amu Daria to the north, when he destroyed Balkh, the ‘Mother of Cities’ not far away they seem to have lived here for so long that no records remain of their origins.
Theirs is a good life, as much of it as I was allowed to see. Many of the devotional exercises, such at the communal ‘Zikr,’ or Remembering, are held in private. The Brethren, numbering no less than nine hundred, mainly lived in the hill-settlements called ‘Tekkies,’ artistically sited oratories surrounded by vines and patches of herbs.
Each monk is specialist of some sort: in gardening, local medicine, herbs, mathematics as known to them, calligraphy or even falconry. One of the plants they grew most carefully was Chungari (Herb of Enlightenment); this I was not able to see, nor could I obtain a sample of it. According to Afghan folklore it has powers connected with mystical revelation.
Within the monastery walls numerous industries are carried on. Working with felt, pelts, wool and looms, the inhabitants produce articles of surpassing beauty and durability. Some of the carpets today called Bokhara actually originate there. The Abbot, Baba Amyn, allowed me to stay in a wood-lined cell, and talked to me in Hindustani, which he had learned during three years spent in India as the servant of a Prince: a part of his training, as he said.
I was issued with a bowl, a sheepskin run, horn, belt and cap, the standard dervish equipment, though I had little idea as to their significance or uses.
One evening I was allowed to inspect some of the treasures of the community, and was assured that they had not before been seen by any non-initiate. They had been declared ‘deconsecrated,’ as it were, because a new phase of teaching, somewhere to the westward, had superseded the ritual to which they belonged. Henceforth they would merely be museum pieces.
An articulated tree, of gold and other metals, which seemed to me unbelievably beautiful and resembled a Babylonian work of art which I had seen in Bagdad Museum, was by far the most impressive. It served to indicate the postures assumed by dervishes in their Yoga-like exercises, which, performed to special music, they studied for self-development. A tall pillar of lapis lazuli, about nine feet high by two feet in diameter, was used for the Daur, a turning movement, in which the devotees circle round, one hand on the pillar, to achieve a particular state of mind.
On a wall faced with white Afghan marble, delineated in polished rubies glowed the symbol of the community. This is the mystical ‘No-Koonja,’ the ninefore Naqsch or ‘Impress,’ an emblem which I was later to see in various forms embroidered on clothes. This figure ‘reaches for the innermost secret of man,’ I was informed.
Its operation could only be manifest, at the right time and under special conditions, by the Lord of Time, the head of the community. He, unfortunately, was absent. In any case he did not reside at this monastery, but at another very secret place called Aubshaur. He is referred to, with great deference, as a sort of human incarnation of all teachers. He is the Surkaur, or ‘Workleader.’
Since the marble, rubies, and lapis are all mined in Afghanistan, and many of the miners and prospectors are adherents of the Sarmouni, this extraordinary richness of endowment was perhaps not as strange as it seemed to me at the time.
There are many legends about Sarmoun-Dargauh (‘Court of the Bees’), and one of them is this. True knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of the bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated. From time to time in human history, however, it lies unused and starts to leak away. On those occasions the Sarmouni and their associates all over the world collect it and store it in a special receptacle. Then, when the time is ripe, they release it into the world again, through specially trained emissaries.
It is not only in the West, I though, as the greybearded chief of the story-tellers told me this, that legends about a secret knowledge linger on. He was not very forthcoming when I started to ply him with questions trying to see how far their doctrine had developed.
Were there any such emissaries in Europe? There was one, but he must not speak of him. But surely it would help everyone if he was publicly known? On the contrary, I was informed, it might be a calamity. He had to ‘work like a bee, in private.’ Could a visitor like myself have some of the ‘honey’? No, myself least of all, strangely enough; because I had seen and heard so much, I could have no more.
“Have you not seen that you are not allowed to take photographs, even, though other foreigners have been allowed to take them?” I had seen the treasures, that was the most that anyone could have.
Another evening, I watched the enactment of the beautiful Ceremony of the Key. As the sun was setting, several dozen of us assembled, under the direction of the ‘Master of Presentations,’ who was resplendent in a patchwork robe, intricately embroidered. In the light of the dying sun a dervish with crossed arms, hands on shoulders, knelt before the Abbot, deputising for the Surkaur.
Upon being handed a large key, he advanced towards a carved door that was set in a big square wooden structure, a piece of scenery, decorated with flags and maces and other emblems of power and authority. He put the key into an ornate lock and turned it. Suddenly, by means of a clever piece of engineering, the whole structure slid apart. The seen was lit by a procession of men carrying candles and intoning the Saidd dirge in honour of the teachers.
Then we saw that the pieces of the box were turning on pivots and rearranging themselves into different shapes; the scene was completely transformed. Gardens, orchards, birds in flight, and other motifs, made from wood and painted cloth, now replaced the rectangular structure.
The meaning of the drama was explained to me. It was an allegory, based on the idea that all teaching is transformed by mankind into something unnatural, institutionalized, like the box. “The Key of the Real Man opens up the real joy and meaning of life.”
First publication of the above article: Major Desmond R. Martin, The Editor of The Lady, “Below the Hindu Kush,” The Lady, vol. CLX11, No. 4210, December 9, 1965, p. 870.
Poetry: Annemarie Schimmel
Maulali Near Hyderabad
There are five hundred steps and five more
that lead to the dark little cell
which houses the trace of the saint.
You cross the gigantic rocks,
rocks, washed by the tears
of lovers through thousands of years.
Five hundred steps and five more
you would be weary and torn
but for the guide who knows well
how to lead your heart on,
You’ll see: the rocks turn to sand
You’ll see: the thorns turn to roses.
Don’t listen to the crows of despair,
don’t listen to those who don’t know
that to live is to die
and to love is to burn
There are five hundred steps and five more,
and the end is a rose.
“Make thirsty me, O friend, give me no water!
Let me so love that sleep flees from my door!”
Yes, sleep flees, if he sees the burning eyelids,
He would be drowned if he would cross the sea
of tears; he would be poisoned
if he should dare to drink
That potent wine which you
Poured in the gobler of my eyes:
Those eyes which once beheld your radiant face
And try to mirror it on every tear…
…Those eyes which are a veil.
Make me more thirsty, friend, give me no water-
My thirst is proof that you are thirsty, too…
weaves satin and brocade
from tears, O friend, to spread it
one day beneath your feet…
Only from tears, Maulana?
Forms the weft of the endless fabric of love.
With every breath I weave the brocade of your name,
Golden letters inscribed in the satin-robe of my blood.
O, what garments have I prepared for you,
taking the ruddy dawn and the fist green silk of spring,
star-embroidered velvet, and feather-light wool!
Every thought embellishes your name, O my friend,
Weaving into the fabric the turquoise domes of Iran,
Dyeing the yarn in the pearl-studded depth of the sea.
Every pulse bears the drum of primordial love
Every breath is the flute of impossible hope
Every goblet is filled with you
And I weave
ever new silken garments of words
only to hide you.
Annemarie Schimmel (April 7, 1922 – January 26, 2003) was a well known and very influential German Iranologist and scholar who wrote extensively on Islam and Sufism.
She received a doctorate in Islamic languages and civilization from the University of Berlin at the age of nineteen. At twenty-three, she became a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Marburg (Germany), where she earned a second doctorate in the history of religions.
A turning point in her life came in 1954 when she was appointed Professor of the History of Religion at the University of Ankara (Turkey). There she spent five years teaching in Turkish and immersing herself in the culture and mystical tradition of the country. She was a faculty member at Harvard University from 1967 to 1992 and became Professor Emerita of Indo-Muslim Culture upon her retirement. She was also an honorary professor at the University of Bonn. She published more than 50 books on Islamic literature, mysticism and culture, and translated Persian, Urdu, Arabic, Sindhi and Turkish poetry and literature into English and German.
For her work on Islam, Sufism or mysticism and Muhammad Iqbal, the government of Pakistan honored her with one of its highest civil awards of known as Hilal-e-Imtiaz or ‘Crescent of Excellence’. She was showered with many other awards from many countries of the world, including the prestigious Peace Prize of the German book trade.
A Different View Of Islam Sufism
By Anees Jung
For Anne-Marie Schimmel, Islam was a lifelong passion, as deep as her own roots in the Lutheran faith. Church rituals were as dear to her as bowing in prayer at Sufi shrines.
Sitting in Bonn she dreamed of Bijapur and Bidar, talked of her friend Allan Fakir in Sindh and brooded over the problem of selecting a site for her burial in Sindh. This gentle woman, renowned scholar of Sufism, passed away in Germany recently. As gently as she had lived.
A few years ago Anne-Marie Schimmel was in Delhi during Ramzan. While official Delhi was fasting and feasting, Schimmel was invoking the essence of Islam by taking those around her on a journey back in time when Islam arrived in Andalusia in Spain immediately after the death of the Prophet.
“We owe to the early Arabs some of the basic concepts we know today like the Arabic numbers, and much more,” she said. She talked about Ramon Lull, the Catalan who tried to forge an understanding between the three great faiths of his time: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ibn Arabi, the philosopher who introduced the term Фunity of being’, lived in Spain. Schimmel recollected the fables of la Fontaine that have echoes of India’s Pachatantra that travelled to Europe from India via the Arabs.
The second wave of Islam according to Schimmel was not as positive as the first one. It came with the expansion of the Ottoman empire when the word Turk became interchangeable with Muslim and the Qu’ran came to be referred as the Turkish Bible.
Then Chardin travelled to Iran and wrote about his travels in the East; Rembrandt’s work emulated the Mughal miniatures brought by Dutch merchants from Moghul India; Goethe wrote poems inspired by Islam’s prophetic spirit; Ruecart wrote his own dictionary of Arabic and Sanskrit, translated Hafiz, Saadi, the Shahnama of Firdausi and the Atharva Veda and brought the ghazal to Germany. Herder was deeply influenced by the Upanishads. Islam’s spirit began to unfold with the life of Hallaj, the martyr of mystical love. Schimmel was happy to see Sufism’s influence grow worldwide. Why Islam, I asked her.
“To reach the state of ilhaam ” she smiled and said: “I would not have perhaps turned to it if I did not have an inner calling.”
Her parents were deeply religious. She grew up in Arfut, East Germany, the home of Martin Luther, in a landscape as much enriched by Gothic cathedrals as by gardens full of roses and dahlias. On Luther’s birth anniversary thousands of children including Anne-Marie would march with lanterns to the place where Luther had taken a vow to become a monk. They would sing church hymns and come back home and receive marzipan sweets. Those echoes remained with her throughout her life.
Going to church and enjoying the beauty of ritual and music did not make her more Christian and talking about the compassion of Islam did not make her sympathetic to fundamentalists. She saw God everywhere. In Deciphering Signs of God she quotes an ayat from the Qu’ran which explains that God shows His signs in the horizon and in ourselves.
“Each one must look around and try to find that sign. You may see a tree in bloom or see something terrible. That too is God’s majesty. On her last visit to Delhi I was escorting her to the shrine of Fatima Saam, India’s only female Muslim saint. Removing her shoes at the tiny iron gate, she walked barefoot and stood by the painted green grave, her hands cupped in a gesture of prayer. As she recited the fateha I sensed that her accent was purer than mine. Perhaps also her faith…
And now for something completely different…
January 26, 2006
On The Music Box: Radio Free EarthRites.