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The mystic Unitarians admit the appearance of contradiction, but deny its reality. "The Law and the Truth" (they might say) "are the same thing in different aspects. The Law is for you, the Truth for us. In addressing you we speak according to the measure of your understanding, since what is meat for gnostics is poison to the uninitiated, and the highest mysteries ought to be jealously guarded from profane ears. It is only human reason that sees the single as double, and balances the Law against the Truth. Pass away from the world of opposites and become one with God, who has no opposite."

The gnostic recognises that the Law is valid and necessary in the moral sphere. While good and evil remain, the Law stands over both, commanding and forbidding, rewarding and punishing. He knows, on the other hand, that only God really exists and acts: therefore, if evil really exists, it must be divine, and if evil things are really done, God must be the doer of them. The conclusion is false because the hypothesis is false. Evil has no real existence; it is not-being, which is the privation and absence of being, just as darkness is the absence of light. "Once," said Nuri, "I beheld the Light, and I fixed my gaze upon it until I became the Light." No wonder that such illuminated souls, supremely indifferent to the shadow-shows of religion and morality in a phantom world, are ready to cry with Jalaluddin:

"The man of God is made wise by the Truth,
The man of God is not learned from book.
The man of God is beyond infidelity and faith,
To the man of God right and wrong are alike."

It must be borne in mind that this is a theory of perfection, and that those whom it exalts above the Law are saints, spiritual guides, and profound theosophists who enjoy the special favour of God and presumably do not need to be restrained, coerced, or punished. In practice, of course, it leads in many instances to antinomianism and libertinism, as among the Bektashis and other orders of the so-called 'lawless' dervishes. The same theories produced the same results in Europe during the Middle Ages, and the impartial historian cannot ignore the corruptions to which a purely subjective mysticism is liable; but on the present occasion we are concerned with the rose itself, not with its cankers.

Not all Sufis are gnostics; and, as I have mentioned before, those who are not yet ripe for the gnosis receive from their gnostic teachers the ethical instruction suitable to their needs. Jalaluddin Rumi, in his collection of lyrical poems entitled The Divan of Shamsi Tabriz, gives free rein to a pantheistic enthusiasm which sees all things under the form of eternity.

"I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.
I am intoxicated with Love's cup, the two worlds have passed out of my ken;
I have no business save carouse and revelry."

But in his Masnavi--a work so famous and venerated that it has been styled 'The Koran of Persia'--we find him in a more sober mood expounding the Sufi doctrines and justifying the ways of God to man. Here, though he is a convinced optimist and agrees with Ghazali that this is the best of all possible worlds, he does not airily dismiss the problem of evil as something outside reality, but endeavours to show that evil, or what seems evil to us, is part of the divine order and harmony, I will quote some passages of his argument and leave my readers to judge how far it is successful or, at any rate, suggestive.

The Sufis, it will be remembered, conceive the universe as a projected and reflected image of God. The divine light, streaming forth in a series of emanations, falls at last upon the darkness of not-being, every atom of which reflects some attribute of Deity. For instance, the beautiful attributes of love and mercy are reflected in the form of heaven and the angels, while the terrible attributes of wrath and vengeance are reflected in the form of hell and the devils. Man reflects all the attributes, the terrible as well as the beautiful: he is an epitome of heaven and hell. Omar Khayyam alludes to this theory when he says:

"Hell is a spark from our fruitless pain,
Heaven a breath from our time of joy"

--a couplet which Fitz Gerald moulded into the magnificent stanza:

"Heav'n but the Vision of fulfilled Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire."

Jalaluddin, therefore, does in a sense make God the author of evil, but at the same time he makes evil intrinsically good in relation to God--for it is the reflexion of certain divine attributes which in themselves are absolutely good. So far as evil is really evil, it springs from not-being. The poet assigns a different value to this term in its relation to God and in its relation to man. In respect of God not-being is nothing, for God is real Being, but in man it is the principle of evil which constitutes half of human nature. In the one case it is a pure negation, in the other it is positively and actively pernicious. We need not quarrel with the poet for coming to grief in his logic. There are some occasions when intense moral feeling is worth any amount of accurate thinking.

It is evident that the doctrine of divine unity implies predestination. Where God is and naught beside Him, there can be no other agent than He, no act but His. "Thou didst not throw, when thou threwest, but God threw" (Kor. 8.17). Compulsion is felt only by those who do not love. To know God is to love Him; and the gnostic may answer, like the dervish who was asked how he fared:

"I fare as one by whose majestic will
The world revolves, floods rise and rivers flow,
Stars in their courses move; yea, death and life
Hang on his nod and fly to the ends of earth,
His ministers of mourning or of joy."

This is the Truth; but for the benefit of such as cannot bear it, Jalaluddin vindicates the justice of God by asserting that men have the power to choose how they will act, although their freedom is subordinate to the divine will. Approaching the question, "Why does God ordain and create evil?" he points out that things are known through their opposites, and that the existence of evil is necessary for the manifestation of good.

"Not-being and defect, wherever seen,
Are mirrors of the beauty of all that is.
The bone-setter, where should he try his skill
But on the patient lying with broken leg?
Were no base copper in the crucible,
How could the alchemist his craft display?"

Moreover, the divine omnipotence would not be completely realised if evil had remained uncreated.

"He is the source of evil, as thou sayest,
Yet evil hurts Him not. To make that evil
Denotes in Him perfection. Hear from me
A parable. The heavenly Artist paints
Beautiful shapes and ugly: in one picture
The loveliest women in the land of Egypt
Gazing on youthful Joseph amorously;
And lo, another scene by the same hand,
Hell-fire and Iblis with his hideous crew:
Both master-works, created for good ends,
To show His perfect wisdom and confound
The sceptics who deny His mastery.
Could He not evil make, He would lack skill;
Therefore He fashions infidel alike
And Moslem true, that both may witness bear
To Him, and worship One Almighty Lord."

In reply to the objection that a God who creates evil must Himself be evil, Jalaluddin, pursuing the analogy drawn from Art, remarks that ugliness in the picture is no evidence of ugliness in the painter.

Again, without evil it would be impossible to win the proved virtue which is the reward of self-conquest. Bread must be broken before it can serve as food, and grapes will not yield wine till they are crushed. Many men are led through tribulation to happiness.

As evil ebbs, good flows. Finally, much evil is only apparent. What seems a curse to one may be a blessing to another; nay, evil itself is turned to good for the righteous. Jalaluddin will not admit that anything is absolutely bad.

"Fools buy false coins because they are like the true.
If in the world no genuine minted coin
Were current, how would forgers pass the false?
Falsehood were nothing unless truth were there,
To make it specious. 'Tis the love of right
Lures men to wrong. Let poison but be mixed
With sugar, they will cram it into their mouths.
Oh, cry not that all creeds are vain! Some scent
Of truth they have, else they would not beguile.
Say not, 'How utterly fantastical!'
No fancy in the world is all untrue.
Amongst the crowd of dervishes hides one,
One true fakir. Search well and thou wilt find!"

Surely this is a noteworthy doctrine. Jalaluddin died only a few years after the birth of Dante, but the Christian poet falls far below the level of charity and tolerance reached by his Moslem contemporary.

How is it possible to discern the soul of goodness in things evil? By means of love, says Jalaluddin, and the knowledge which love alone can give, according to the word of God in the holy Tradition:

"My servant draws nigh unto Me, and I love him; and when I love him, I am his ear, so that he hears by Me, and his eye, so that he sees by Me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and his hand, so that he takes by Me."

Although it will be convenient to treat of mystical love in a separate chapter, the reader must not fancy that a new subject is opening before him. Gnosis and love are spiritually identical; they teach the same truths in different language.

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