The Angst of Duality and Rumi

I feel like a broken record. Thinking back over my two years of blogging I realize there are certain themes that keep coming back, themes which are obviously very important to me, themes which one could even say haunt me. One of these themes is that life is not as it appears to be, that it is always something that is going on beneath the surface which must by design always elude us. It is kind of like a cat chasing its own tail; or better yet, the quest for it is like the mythological euroboric image of the snake trying to swallow its tail. I sometimes want to tell myself, “Hey! Stop this! Get a life! Get out there and make some money, watch a lot of reality TV, go ahead, drink that Kool-Aid.

And, spiritual lore in which I’m steeped even warns of the futility of spiritual obsession. For example, the Buddhist koan notes the lunacy of “riding an oxen, searching for an oxen,” the point being, “Hey, just quit trying! Don’t waste your effort. The thing you search for is already there. As W. H. Auden noted, “The Center that you cannot find is known to the unconscious mind. There is no need to despair for you are already there.”

From a clinical perspective, this quest can even be thought of as schizophrenic in nature and it is no accident that schizophrenics often have spiritual themes in their fantasies. The schizophrenic is trapped in a bifurcated world, not able to find his/her place in the “real” world and subjected to the torment of living in a hinterland, constantly buffeted by the daily torments that his “delusional” system presents to him.

So, let me demonstrate my venturing into another day of such mental machinations and share with you a beautiful poem by Rumi who too recognized the presence of this shadow world, insisting that it was the real one that we should give more respect to.

The Self We Share

Thirst is angry with water. Hunger bitter
with bread.

The cave wants nothing to do with the sun.

This is dumb, the self- defeating way
we’ve been.

A gold mine is calling us into its temple.
Instead, we bend and keep picking up rocks
from the ground.

Every thing has a shine like gold,
but we should turn to the source!

The origin is what we truly are. I add a little
vinegar to the honey I give.

The bite of scolding makes ecstasy more familiar.

But look, fish, you’re already in the ocean:
just swimming there makes you friends with

What are these grudges about? You are Benjamin.
Joseph has put a gold cup in your grain sack and
accused you of being a thief.

Now he draws you aside and says,
‘You are my brother. I

am a prayer. You’re the amen.’

We move in eternal regions, yet
worry about property here.

This is the prayer of each:

You are the source of my life.
You separate essence from mud.

You honor my soul. You bring rivers from the
mountain springs. You brighten my eyes.

The wine you offer takes me out of myself into
the self we share. Doing that is religion.

Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi



4 thoughts on “The Angst of Duality and Rumi

  1. Sue C.

    Bravo! Well said. As we literally relax into the reality of unity in spirit, all that we seek reveals itself to us, nourishes us, and en-Lightens us. Sue C.


  2. lotharson

    Hello, are you a psychiatric health-care professional?

    Schizophrenia is a grave disease, a friend of mine is affected by it and what you say is entirely true.

    But psychopathy and the lack of empathy seems to be worse, it really makes me doubt God’s existence.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son


    1. literary lew Post author

      I am a mental health counselor. My specific credential is Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and though I just renewed my license, I am not currently in practice. I am “retired” but am considering returning to practice.

      Thanks for checking out my blog again and for sharing re your faith and its doubts. Yes, belief in God would be easier if he would just offer a cosmic press conference, something along the lines of, “Ok, guys and gals. Here I am. Now you know. Now, get on with it!” But he is not going to do that and technically “can’t” for he…or she…or it…or some combination of the the above…is beyond the limits of time and space. So we are left to “wrestle with words and meanings” as noted T. S. Eliot one time and that fosters recurrent doubt as he said elsewhere in the same poem, words “slip, slide, decay with imprecision, will not stay in place” which parallels the very essense of what it is to be an alive human being…always in flux but capable of standing firm in the flux.”

      Yes, lack of empathy is scary, as is lack of connection, as is doubt. These hearts of ours are in essense so fragile and it is no wonder that most human beings choose to ossify into the “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness.” (Conrad Aiken)

      Sorry, “literarylew” starting oozing out again! I have a hard time keeping him reined in!

      Thanks a lot. Hope to see you again. And I checked your blog out and will be back.



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