Martin Buber's I and Thou

Martin Buber
I and Thou

To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.

The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks.

The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words.

The one primary word is the combination I-Thou.

The other primary word is the combination I-It; wherein, without a change in the primary word, one of the words He and She can replace It.

Hence the I of man is also twofold.

For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It.


Primary words do not signify things, but they intimate relations.

Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence.

Primary words are spoken from the being.

If Thou is said, the I of the combination I-Thou is said along with it.

If It is said, the I of the combination I-It is said along with it.

The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being.

The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.


There is no I taken in itself, but only the I of the primary word I-Thou and the I of the primary word I-It.

When a man says I he refers to one or other of these. The I to which he refers is present when he says I.

Further, when he says Thou or It, the I of one of the two primary words is present.

The existence of I and the speaking of I are one and the same thing.

When a primary word is spoken the speaker enters the word and takes his stand in it.


The life of human beings is not passed in the sphere of transitive verbs alone. It does not exist in virtue of activities alone which have some thing for their object.

I perceive something. I am sensible of something. I imagine something. I will something. I feel something. I think something. The life of human beings does not consist of all this and the like alone.

This and the like together establish the realm of It.

But the realm of Thou has a different basis.

When Thou is spoken, the speaker has no thing for his object. For where there is a thing there is another thing. Every It is bounded by others; It exists only through being bounded by others. But when Thou is spoken, there is no thing. Thou has no bounds.

When Thou is spoken, the speaker has no thing; he has indeed nothing. But he takes his stand in relation.


It is said that man experiences his world. What does that mean? Man travels over the surface of things and experiences them. He extracts knowledge about their constitution from them: he wins an experience from them. He experiences what belongs to the things.
But the world is not presented to man by experiences alone. These present him only with a world composed of It and He and She and It again...

As experience, the world belongs to the primary word I-It.

The primary word I-Thou establishes the world of relation.


If I face a human being as my Thou, and say the primary word I-Thou to him, he is not a thing among things, and does not consist of things.
This human being is not He or She, bounded from every other He and She, a specific point in space and time within the net of the world; nor is he a nature able to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. But with no neighbor, and whole in himself, he is Thou and fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing exists except himself. But all else lives in his light...


I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou.

All real living is meeting.

But this is the exalted melancholy of our fate, that every Thou in our world must become an It. It does not matter how exclusively present the Thou was in the direct relation. As soon as the relation has been worked out or has been permeated with a means, the Thou becomes an object among objects — perhaps the chief, but still one of them, fixed in its size and its limits. In the work of art realisation in one sense means loss of reality in another. Genuine contemplation is over in a short time; now the life in nature, that first unlocked itself to me in the mystery of mutual action, can again be described, taken to pieces, and classified — the meeting-point of manifold systems of laws. And love itself cannot persist in direct relation. It endures, but in interchange of actual and potential being. The human being who was even now single and unconditioned, not something lying to hand, only present, not able to be experienced, only able to be fulfilled, has now become again a He or a She, a sum of qualities, a given quantity with a certain shape. Now I may take out from him again the colour of his hair or of his speech or of his goodness. But so long as I can do this he is no more my Thou and cannot yet be my Thou again.

Every Thou in the world is by its nature fated to become a thing, or continually re-enter into the condition of things. In objective speech it would be said that every thing in the world, either before or after becoming a thing, is able to appear to an I as its Thou. But objective speech snatches only at a fringe of real life.

The It is the eternal chrysalis, the Thou the eternal butterfly — except that situations do not always follow one another in clear succession, but often there is a happening profoundly twofold, confusedly entangled.


The world of It is set in the context of space and time.

The world of Thou is not set in the context of either of these.

The particular Thou, after the relational event has run its course, is bound to become an It.

The particular It, by entering the relational event, may become a Thou.

These are the two basic privileges of the world of It. They move man to look on the world of It as the world in which he has to live, and in which it is comfortable to live, as the world, indeed, which offers him all manner of incitements and excitements, activity and knowledge. In this chronicle of solid benefits the moments of the Thou appear as strange lyric and dramatic episodes, seductive and magical, but tearing us away to dangerous extremes, loosening the well-tried context, leaving more questions than satisfaction behind them, shattering security — in short, uncanny moments we can well dispense with. For since we are bound to leave them and go back into the “world,” why not remain in it? Why not call to order what is over against us, and send it packing into the realm of objects? Why, if we find ourselves on occasion with no choice but to say Thou to father, wife, or comrade, not say Thou and mean It? To utter the sound Thou with the vocal organs is by no means the same as saying the uncanny primary word; more, it is harmless to whisper with the soul an amorous Thou, so long as nothing else in a serious way is meant but experience and make use of.

It is not possible to live in the bare present. Life would be quite consumed if precautions were not taken to subdue the present speedily and thoroughly. But it is possible to live in the bare past, indeed only in it may a life be organised. We only need to fill each moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.

And in all the seriousness of truth, hear this: without It man cannot live. But he who lives with It alone is not a man.

Translated by Ronald Gregor Smith (1958)

Secret Sayings of Jesus

Secret Sayings of Jesus
Translated by Jay G. Williams

1 To the multitude I speak only in parables, for the world is drunk with its own importance, addicted to its own pride. Drunken understanding is worse than drunken ignorance.

2 To you I will explain everything, if you will but sober up.

3 Peter said, “How, Master, can I sober up? Show me the way.” Jesus said, “To be my disciple you must renounce everything. Cleanse your heart of the world and its cravings.”

4 Peter said, “Teacher, if I renounce everything, how can I live?” Jesus said, “What I ask is not a law, for no law can demand the impossible. Only the Spirit can achieve the impossible. The world tells us that complete renunciation is impossible, but consider the birds of the air. They have no regular employment or storage barns; yet they live more happily than we. Renunciation is a work of the Spirit that never ends; it is freedom from the craving of the world. It is a life of genuine simplicity. It is the disenchantment of the world. Renunciation is repentance. It is to turn around and go in exactly the opposite direction.”

5 Do not think that I come to teach you about the Eternal Source. The Source is beyond all understanding. To speak about the Source is to create an idol. I come to proclaim the kingdom. Nevertheless, to live in the kingdom is to be one with the Source.

6 James said, “May I help you to rule the kingdom?” Jesus said, “If you wish to rule, you are far from the kingdom and from me.”

7 The kingdom is like seeds sown upon the earth; if the earth is good, the seeds will sprout and grow.

8 The seed of the kingdom is within you. Nourish it.

9 Philip asked, “When will the kingdom come?” Jesus said, “When the time is full, the seed sprouts up and grows you know not how, but you will know when the harvest is ready. Only be sure that you water with care.”

10 Peter said, “Show us a sign that we may believe.” Jesus said, “The kingdom is its own sign. Do you not know that the deaf hear, the lame dance, and the blind receive their sight? Have you no eyes to see?”

11 Mary said, “I love you, Jesus.” Jesus said, “That is a good beginning; the kingdom is born from love.”

12 Recognize the kingdom where it is. It is in the eyes of every person you meet. If you see the kingdom in me, you will see it everywhere. If you see the kingdom in any face, then you will know me.

13 One day, as Jesus taught his disciples, Peter left to quiet children who were playing in the courtyard and disturbing his concentration. Jesus asked, “Where are you going?” Peter replied, “To make the children be quiet.” Jesus said, “Do not do that; let us go outside.” The children were playing a game, laughing and showing great delight. Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom is like this, full of joy and gladness; let us join them.” And so Jesus and his disciples played with the children all that day.

14 Peter said, “Let us fast and punish our bodies so that the kingdom will come.” Jesus said, “Your body is the gift of our Mother. Treat your body with holiness and respect. It is not your body that causes your addiction; it is your psyche. Clean the inside of the cup; that is what matters.”

15 Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. What other temple do you need?

16 Close the windows, shut the doors, keep the foolishness and violence of the world away. When your mind is free of foolishness and empties into the great Sea, then you will be close.

17 The disciples said, “Teach us how to pray.” Jesus replied, “Go into your inner room and close the door. Do not pray in public as the addicts do, for that is idolatry. Do not try to tell the Eternal Source what to do, for that is presumptuous. Just listen. Listen, I say, listen. Those who have ears let them hear.”

18 Peter asked, “How should we live? Teach us the Law.” Jesus said, “The law only cleans the outside of the cup but leaves the inside full of foul debris. If you think I have come with a new Law, you are wrong. The law was given for hardness of heart, and the wine of the kingdom dissolves the hardness.

19 The world’s addiction to the ego creates hearts of stone.

20 The world needs laws, for craving creates conflict, but when the kingdom comes, there is only the law of love. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is nothing more than is needed. To love your neighbor is to love the Eternal Source.”

21 Everything I say is of the kingdom, not of the Law. Sing and dance for the good news.

22 There once was a pearl merchant who sought the world’s most perfect pearl. He travelled the earth, enduring great perils and sufferings, but returned to his home tired, impoverished, and empty-handed. Then his wife discovered the pearl he sought for so long in the headband he had worn on his journey.

23 John said, “Teach us about the kingdom.” Jesus said, “Do not look for the kingdom as though it will appear in one place or another. The kingdom is here, now. Nevertheless, you must prepare for its wonderful appearance. It is like a flash of lightning that illumines all. So do not close your eyes, even for a moment. The kingdom is like the leading lady of the drama who waits in the wings for her cue. She is there, but you do not see her.”

24 The world is addicted, always craving, never satisfied. Because the world craves, there is suffering and violence and hate. Those who succeed in the world are the unhappiest of all.

25 Do not despise the world or its people; the seeds of the kingdom are everywhere. Delight in everything.

26 Peter said, “Some effeminate men wanted to see you but I sent them away.” Jesus said, “You were wrong to do that, Peter. Did I not tell you that the seeds of the kingdom are everywhere?” Peter replied, “But suppose they will not reform their ways?” Jesus said, “Think not of the faults of others, Peter. For no one has achieved true righteousness. Have more faith in the power of the kingdom. Therefore I say, do not judge others or censure them. Look only to your own craving.”

27 Nathaniel said, “Must we become celibates for the sake of the kingdom?” Jesus said, “No, sexual desire is a gift from our Mother, and we must give thanks for her gifts and use them wisely. Celibacy does not end the craving but only intensifies it. True marriage, however, is the reunification of Adam and is the great and holy Mystery. Only the Child of Adam enters the kingdom.”

28 I am the light that shines in the darkness, the light that enlightens every person. You have always known me, though today, in your blindness, you do not recognize me.

29 Only the naked should baptize the naked.

30 Running floodwaters of the earth and the unpredictable winds of heaven; a plunge of death into the waters, the fluttering of the dove: the Child of Adam is born.

31 Peter said, “Why do you allow women to follow you? Should not only men be disciples?” Jesus said, “Peter, Peter, are you so blind? Do you not see that the seeds of the kingdom are planted in both women and men and that in the kingdom there is no difference between them? We are all the union of male and female and therefore are in ourselves both male and female. Until you realize that, the kingdom will be far away. To remind you of your blindness, when I appear in glory, Mary shall see me first. She is my beloved disciple.”

32 The kingdom is agape manifest among us. It is the one great miracle. If you know agape, the kingdom comes.

33 Agape is not just feeling in the human heart, but grows among us. Act in agape; then there will be feeling.

34 Judas asked, “What should we do for the poor?” Jesus answered, “Love the poor, but do not pity them. They are much closer to the kingdom than are the rich. Do not think that the end of life is worldly goods. It is the things of the world that blind us to the kingdom. But feed the hungry and care for the suffering as you would care for your own mother or father or wife or friend. Watch for the kingdom, for it is there among the poor, the glories revealed among those without a dwelling, for the Child of Adam has nowhere to lay his head.”

35 Weep for the rich, for it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.

36 The true gifts of the Magi I give you: compassion, simplicity, and dare not be first in the world.

37 The kingdom is like an ancient well flowing with living water. Draw up the water, and quench your thirst.

38 Trust in the kingdom. That is all that is needed.

39 From the Source flows the One and the One contains the Two. The Two give birth to the Third, who is the Child of Adam, and from the Three flow forth all things.

40 All flows creatively from the Source. When you create, the power of the Source is yours. Music, Poetry, Art are gifts from the Source.

41 John said, “Teach us about the Spirit.” Jesus said, “The Spirit is the kingdom made manifest. When the trees move their branches you know that the Spirit is there. The Spirit is your life. When you breathe, it is the Spirit that moves within you. When your breath flows perfectly with the Spirit, you are in the kingdom. Watch your breath.”

42 Our enemies surround us and want to destroy the kingdom. How shall we fight against our enemies? Shall we take up arms?” Jesus said, “Love your enemies; do good to those who misuse you, for in them dwells also the kingdom. And forgive, always forgive.” “But,” said James, “suppose that they should kill us?” Jesus replied, “No one can kill the kingdom for it has been from the beginning and will be until the end. As for the rest, it is mortal and will return to the Mother. Do not cling to life. Life and death are twin sisters who can never be separated. Death too is a blessing. But enter the kingdom where there is eternal life.

43 In all things be mindful.

44 John asked, “Is my soul immortal? Will I go to heaven?” Jesus said, “Your psyche is a function of your body, and like your body will return to dust. But the kingdom of light is everlasting. Enter the kingdom of light and find eternal peace.”

45 I will die and on the third day burst forth again from the tomb. The kingdom of light can be hidden for a time, but cannot be destroyed. Not by the so-called religious authorities, not by the great world empires. If you trust in the kingdom, you will not fear death.

46 Peter said, “I hope and pray you will not die.” Jesus said, “If you wish to enter the kingdom you must die, for new life comes only from death. Peter, all component parts decay. Even your psyche will crumble into dust. But if your trust is into the light, you will rest in the light. Like me, you will burst forth again from the tomb. For the light is eternal.”

47 Judas said, “Teacher, the prophets taught us that the Eternal demands justice for all. Should we not organize to fight against injustice in our world? Jesus said, “Agape demands justice in the world and woe to the poor person who does not seek to right the wrongs among people. But agape also knows that justice without the kingdom is hollow and unstable. In this world of craving, injustice will always reign because craving demands injustice. To think that there can be true justice without the coming of the kingdom is an illusion.”

48 The kingdom comes from the glory of the Eternal, Incomprehensible Source.

49 Judas said, “Let us organize ourselves with the chief and lieutenants, so that our movement may be more effective.” Jesus said, “Agape does not hold to order. The more you organize, the more your organization will become but one more institution of craving. Soon you will have some men ruling over others. Some will be forced to bow to their masters. There will be ordinances and taboos. People will begin to think that faith is just subscribing to a set of ideas and the kingdom will become a fossil to be put on the shelf along with all other ancient doctrines. Then there will be persecutions and wars carried out in my name as the blind lead the blind into disaster. No, Judas, call no person Father or Rabbi or the Reverend or your Holiness. All of this comes from the craving of the world, and will only end in violence and disorder. The kingdom comes as a miracle and miracles cannot be contained.”

50 When you meet as friends, love one another. Celebrate agape.

51 Proclaim the good news of the eternal kingdom but think not of proselytes. The kingdom will provide the miracle.

52 Do not think that a tribe or nation or empire can become the kingdom, for the kingdom will grow when and where it wills. Nothing will impede the kingdom more than a nation of addicts pretending to be the kingdom.

53 I looked and I saw a great beast rising out of the earth, devouring everyone in its path. Great was its pride and great its claims to truth. To those whom it enticed it offered holy feelings and future hopes, but it attacked the very kingdom it proclaimed. Those who were devoured seldom returned. The name of the beast was the Holy Church.

54 Keep my teachings secret; cast no pearls before the swine, lest the great beast overhear the word and destroy.

55 To live in the kingdom is to laugh and be glad. There is no soberness in the realm of light; it is freedom, hope, and joy.

56 I do not come to judge the world or anyone in it. I come to reveal the light of the kingdom. Those who turn from the light and seek the darkness condemn themselves and enter the darkness. Those who seek the light are of the light. Trust in the light and the healing is yours.

57 Do not judge others. If they seek the darkness, that is their danger, their woe. But trust the light and it will grow into a great flame. Let your light shine before all people that they may see and trust also.

58 James said, “There are other teachers in other lands who offer wisdom to the world. How should we think of them?” Jesus said, “The seeds of the kingdom are everywhere. Do not think of the kingdom as your personal possession. My light is to be found everywhere in the world, and many are those who have found me. But beware the influence of humanity’s dark craving. Traditions of humanity are few that have not become corrupted by the craving. But where there is light, rejoice in it.”

59 One night Jesus gathered those he taught and led them to an inner room set apart. There, at the meal, he took a loaf of bread and broke it before them. “This bread,” he said, “is a gift from the Mother of us all. Together we partake of her substance. This loaf also comes from the sunlight of the Father’s heavenly realm, now broken that we may become one in the heavenly light. Together we share the bread of heaven and earth, the kingdom of love is among us; this is my body.”

60 The kingdom does not belong to individuals. It becomes manifest in agape shared. Therefore the loaf must be broken so that agape may be known in the sharing.

61 Jesus also took a cup of wine, rich in aroma and body, and he said, “This wine is a gift from our Mother to make glad the hearts of humans, so that we may know joy and peace. It is likewise a gift from the sun from the Father’s heavenly realm. It reminds us of the great transformation which the light and love of the kingdom bring. This is my blood poured out. In the world, wine may bring drunkenness; here one finds the kingdom.”

62 I am the True Light, glowing from the Eternal Source. Cleave the wood, I am there; lift the stone, I am there.

63 Jesus asked of Mary, “What shall you do when I return from the dead?” Mary said, “If you were to return from the dead I would observe awestruck silence, and speak to no one about it.” Jesus said, “You have learned well, Mary. You shall be my apostle.”

64 Have you not heard that it was said of old, “those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak?”

65 Peter said, “But we must say something. How can we proclaim the good news if we can say nothing?” Jesus smiled, but did not speak. Then he led his disciples in the Circular Dance of Joy, that they danced until the dawn.

66 Jesus hung upon the Tree of Life. He chanted the ancient psalms as blood dripped from his hands and feet. He spoke words of peace to those who had run away in fear. He encouraged and forgave. The earth trembled and the heavens grew dark. The Mother sobbed and the Father mourned. But in the midst of the trembling there was serenity; in the midst of darkness there was tremendous light streaming from every pore of his body, radiating to every corner of the earth. In death, life is born; in darkness, there is a dawning.

67 Death came, the tomb was made ready and then, after the burial, sealed. But nothing can hold the light. At any moment it can burst forth with an unimaginable radiance. And it does.

68 And you must die. Your craving, born of your prideful ego, must perish. Your death, like that of Jesus, will be dreadfully painful, for the addiction is so intense and has gone on so long. Earth will tremble and Heavens will grow dark before the veil is rent, the Holy of Holies is revealed, and the light, the eternal light, begins to shine.

69 The Well, the Water, and the Drink of Eternity: the three are one.

70 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In every part of the world those who know, know me. I am the wise man’s treasure, and the lost man’s refuge.

71 To you I leave the gifts of the Spirit: agape, simplicity and peace. The kingdom of light is here. It is time to rejoice.

72 Take care to whom these words are given, for those of the world will laugh and deride and then use them for their own worldly ends. Hide my secrets until the time is fulfilled. Beware the beast.

Si tu étais sincère...

Si tu étais sincère...
Faouzi Skali

Tu l’as compris, ô ami, le secret de cette voie est celui de la sincérité. Mais c’est aussi un secret difficile à saisir!

« La sincérité est un secret parmi Mes secrets que Je dépose dans le cœur de celui que J’aime parmi Mes serviteurs. Il n’est pas d’ange ni de démon qui puisse le découvrir pour le consigner ou l’altérer » (Hadîth Qudsî).

La sincérité, ô ami, consiste en ce que l’envol de ton intention ne se porte que vers ton Seigneur. Mais il est bien vrai qu’il faut longtemps œuvrer avant d’obtenir cette grâce. Car dans ton cœur il est bien d’autres regards, tant de faux dieux pour lesquels tu cherches à t’embellir. Tu perds une énergie et un temps précieux alors même que tu crois bien agir.

« Le polythéisme caché est telle une fourmi noire sur une pierre noire par une nuit noire » (Hadîth).

Ce défaut de sincérité, ô ami, fait de toi une ombre. Tu ne vis plus que pour l’image de toi-même. Quel étrange spectacle que celui d’un homme conduit par son ombre! Lève donc les yeux vers le soleil de l’Être et comprends la source de la vérité et de l’illusion. Ne reste pas prisonnier des regards de ce monde.

« Tel l’âne de la meule dont le point d’arrivée est aussi celui du départ, ne voyage pas d’une créature à l’autre... » (Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah).

Cette voie, ô ami, ne te coupe pas pourtant des créatures. C’est parce qu’elle t’en libère que tu peux mieux les aimer et les servir. Elles sont certes un voile suprême pour celui qui voyage vers la Réalité mais elles en sont aussi une porte d’accès. Celui qui est dans la voie de la sincérité aime les créatures pour elles-mêmes. Celui qui vit pour son image aime les créatures pour lui-même.
     La sincérité est l’esprit et le souffle de chacun de tes actes :

« Les œuvres sont des formes mortes, seul le secret de la sincérité y insuffle la vie » (Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah).

Tiré de Traces de lumière (1996)

Pearls from the Poetry of William Wordsworth

From Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey
by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) 

                                That blessed mood,
In which the burden of the mystery,
In which the heavy and weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.


                                         And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime,
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.


                               Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ‘tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.

From Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree

If Thou be one whose heart the holy forms 
Of young imagination have kept pure, 
Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know that pride, 
Howe’er disguised in its own majesty, 
Is littleness; that he, who feels contempt 
For any living thing, hath faculties 
Which he has never used; that thought with him 
Is in its infancy. The man whose eye 
Is ever on himself doth look on one, 
The least of Nature’s works, one who might move 
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds 
Unlawful, ever. O be wiser, Thou! 
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love; 
True dignity abides with him alone 
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought, 
Can still suspect, and still revere himself 
In lowliness of heart.

From Ode: Intimations of Immortality

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
      Hath had elsewhere its setting,
         And cometh from afar:
      Not in entire forgetfulness,
      And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
         From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
         Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
         He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
         Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
         And by the vision splendid
         Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

The Lark Ascending by George Meredith

The Lark Ascending
by George Meredith (1828–1909)

   HE rises and begins to round,  
He drops the silver chain of sound  
Of many links without a break,  
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,  
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,  
Like water-dimples down a tide  
Where ripple ripple overcurls  
And eddy into eddy whirls;  
A press of hurried notes that run  
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat  
And linger ringing while they fleet,  
Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear,  
Who sits beside our inner springs, 
Too often dry for this he brings,  
Which seems the very jet of earth  
At sight of sun, her music’s mirth,  
As up he wings the spiral stair,
A song of light, and pierces air
With fountain ardor, fountain play,  
To reach the shining tops of day,  
And drink in everything discern’d  
An ecstasy to music turn’d,  
Impell’d by what his happy bill 
Disperses; drinking, showering still,  
Unthinking save that he may give  
His voice the outlet, there to live  
Renew’d in endless notes of glee,  
So thirsty of his voice is he,
For all to hear and all to know  
That he is joy, awake, aglow,  
The tumult of the heart to hear  
Through pureness filter’d crystal-clear,  
And know the pleasure sprinkled bright
By simple singing of delight,  
Shrill, irreflective, unrestrain’d,  
Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain’d  
Without a break, without a fall,  
Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,
Perennial, quavering up the chord
Like myriad dews of sunny sward  
That trembling into fulness shine,  
And sparkle dropping argentine;  
Such wooing as the ear receives
From zephyr caught in choric leaves  
Of aspens when their chattering net  
Is flush’d to white with shivers wet;  
And such the water-spirit’s chime  
On mountain heights in morning’s prime,
Too freshly sweet to seem excess,  
Too animate to need a stress;  
But wider over many heads  
The starry voice ascending spreads,  
Awakening, as it waxes thin,
The best in us to him akin;  
And every face to watch him rais’d,  
Puts on the light of children prais’d,  
So rich our human pleasure ripes  
When sweetness on sincereness pipes,
Though nought be promis’d from the seas,  
But only a soft-ruffling breeze  
Sweep glittering on a still content,  
Serenity in ravishment.  
   For singing till his heaven fills,
‘T is love of earth that he instils,  
And ever winging up and up,  
Our valley is his golden cup,  
And he the wine which overflows  
To lift us with him as he goes:
The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine  
He is, the hills, the human line,  
The meadows green, the fallows brown,  
The dreams of labor in the town;  
He sings the sap, the quicken’d veins;
The wedding song of sun and rains  
He is, the dance of children, thanks  
Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks,  
And eye of violets while they breathe;  
All these the circling song will wreathe, 
And you shall hear the herb and tree,  
The better heart of men shall see,  
Shall feel celestially, as long  
As you crave nothing save the song.  
Was never voice of ours could say
Our inmost in the sweetest way,  
Like yonder voice aloft, and link  
All hearers in the song they drink:  
Our wisdom speaks from failing blood,  
Our passion is too full in flood,
We want the key of his wild note  
Of truthful in a tuneful throat,  
The song seraphically free  
Of taint of personality,  
So pure that it salutes the suns
The voice of one for millions,  
In whom the millions rejoice  
For giving their one spirit voice.  
   Yet men have we, whom we revere,  
Now names, and men still housing here,
Whose lives, by many a battle-dint  
Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint,  
Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet  
For song our highest heaven to greet:  
Whom heavenly singing gives us new, 
Enspheres them brilliant in our blue,  
From firmest base to farthest leap,  
Because their love of Earth is deep,  
And they are warriors in accord  
With life to serve and pass reward,
So touching purest and so heard
In the brain’s reflex of yon bird;  
Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,  
Through self-forgetfulness divine,  
In them, that song aloft maintains,
To fill the sky and thrill the plains  
With showerings drawn from human stores,  
As he to silence nearer soars,  
Extends the world at wings and dome,  
More spacious making more our home,
Till lost on his aërial rings  
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Following is the link to Janine Jansen's violin performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams'
splendid orchestral opus The Lark Ascending, inspired by George Meredith's poem:

A Reply To A Pessimist by Alfred Austin

A Reply To A Pessimist
By Alfred Austin (1835-1913)

O beautiful bright world! for ever young,
And now with Wisdom grafted on thy Spring,
Why do they slander thee with wailing tongue,
And lose the wealth of thy long harvesting?
Why do they say that thou art old and sad,
When, each fresh April, nightingales are glad,
And, each returning May, paired misselthrushes sing?

“Stripped of our dreams”! It is the sleeper then,
And not the shadowy corridors of night,
Fair visions have deserted. Hill and glen
As haunted are with wonder and delight
As when Endymion felt his eyelids kissed
By the moist moon, and through the morning mist
Foam-sandalled Venus flowered, immaculately white.

“No deities in sky, or sun, or moon!
No nymphs in grove or hill, in sea or stream”!
Why, I saw Artemis, this very noon,
Slip through the wood, a momentary gleam,
As satin as the sallow and as lithe,
And heard her eager sleuth-hounds baying blithe
Hard on the intruder’s heels, then rent Actaeon’s scream.

“Dead”! Hamadryads frisk in every wood,
In every pool elusive Naiads dwell;
Neptune’s dread voice, deep as when Troy still stood,
Is stored for us in every murmuring shell.
List! you will hear. But look, and you will find
Iris in rainbow, Hermes in the wind,
Delphi’s inspiring fount in every wayside well.

“No God! no Heaven”! The Gods you cannot kill,
Nor banish from their seats the sainted choirs.
The deep-toned organ is Cecilia’s still,
Still lamb-like Agnes quencheth wanton fires;
Stephen still sanctifies the martyr’s lot,
And many a maiden, though believing not,
Beholds Madonna’s face, then chastens her desires.

O beautiful bright world! for ever young,
With gifts for ever fresh. The seasons bring
All that they ever brought, since flowers first sprung
To deck the blushing consciousness of Spring.
Summer still makes us glad that we were born,
Our musings mellow with the mellowing corn,
And to our fireside loves wise Winter bids us cling.

What is there we have lost while hearts still beat,
While thought still burns? You cannot Man dethrone,
Time’s Heir-Apparent, from his sovran seat,
Assail his empire, or curtail its zone.
What though fledged Science fearlessly explore
New worlds of knowledge unsurmised of yore,
These fresh-found realms the Muse annexes to its own.

Thus have we Eld’s delights, our own as well:
Science is but Imagination’s slave;
Nor have “the antique fables” lost their spell,
Because we pierce the sky and plumb the wave.
For us the stars still sing, the moon still grieves,
The Fauns still rustle in the fallen leaves,
The Crucified is risen, and glorifies the grave.

Is Love less sweet because men loved of yore?
No, sweeter, stronger, with the ages’ growth.
Love’s long descent ennobles loving more,
And Helen’s falsehood fortifies one’s troth.
Bridging Time’s stream with life’s commanding span,
We stand upon the Present, and we scan
Future and Past, and seem to live along them both.

What have we lost? – we, who have gained so much:
The mind of man, familiar afar,
Hath upon sun, star, planet, laid its touch,
Lassoed the lightning, yoked it to his car.
Yet fear not lest that Knowledge should deflower
The awe that veils the inviolable Power,
Or that we e’er shall learn what, whence, and why we are.

‘Tis Mystery lends a meaning unto Life,
Never quite guessed; and simple souls, mean-while,
Find Paradise in mother, sister, wife,
The far one’s faithfulness, the near one’s smile.
So long as valour wins and beauty charms,
And lovers throb into each other’s arms,
How can you rail at life, reproach it and revile?

“Woe, agony, despair”! Woe, yes, there is,
Despair there need not be. Meek wisdom tries
To gain from grief an after-taste of bliss,
And sees a rainbow through its streaming eyes.
Nor, if I could, would I quite part with pain,
Lest pity die; – a loss, and not a gain.
‘Tis Pride alone despairs. Be humble, and be wise.

We bear no “burden of the bygone years.”
Their matter perishes, their soul survives,
Widening our hopes and narrowing our fears;
Shedding a shadowy charm athwart our lives,
Guiding our gropings, steadying our feet,
Like to an agëd nurse, that we may meet
The Future without dread, whatever rue arrives.

What if there were no Heaven? there is the Earth.
What if there were no goal? there is the race.
‘Tis unfulfilled desire that staves off dearth,
Sustains the march and stimulates the pace.
Where is the “prodigal waste of myriad lives”?
No life is wasted that loves, hopes, and strives,
And wears an eastward glow upon its fading face.

O beautiful bright world! Earth, Heaven, in one,
I thank thee for thy gifts: the gift of birth,
The unbought bounty of air, sky, sea, sun,
Seed-time and shower, harvest and mellow mirth;
For privilege to think, to feel, to strive;
I thank thee for the boon of being alive,
For Glory’s deathless dream, and Virtue’s matchless worth.

The Higher Pantheism by Lord Tennyson

The Higher Pantheism
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the hills and the plains, —

Are not these, O Soul, the Vision of Him who reigns?

Is not the Vision He, tho’ He be not that which He seems?
Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
Earth, these solid stars, this weight of body and limb,
Are they not sign and symbol of thy division from Him?
Dark is the world to thee; thyself art the reason why,
For is He not all but thou, that hast power to feel “I am I”?
Glory about thee, without thee; and thou fulfillest thy doom,
Making Him broken gleams and a stifled splendour and gloom.
Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet —
Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
God is law, say the wise; O soul, and let us rejoice,
For if He thunder by law the thunder is yet His voice.
Law is God, say some; no God at all, says the fool,
For all we have power to see is a straight staff bent in a pool;
And the ear of man cannot hear, and the eye of man cannot see;
But if we could see and hear, this Vision—were it not He?

Pearls from Tagore's Songs of Kabīr

From The Songs of Kabīr (15th century)
Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

I. O servant, where dost thou seek Me? Lo! I am beside thee. I am neither in temple nor in mosque: I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash: Neither am I in rites and ceremonies, nor in Yoga and renunciation. If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time. Kabīr says, “O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath.”

III. O friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides. If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death? It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him because it has passed from the body: If He is found now, He is found then, if not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death. If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter. Bathe in the truth, know the true Master, have faith in the true Name! Kabīr says: “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps; I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”

IV. Do not go to the garden of flowers! O Friend! go not there; in your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.

VI. The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it. So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught: when all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done. For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge: When that comes, then work is put away. The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers.

VII. When He Himself reveals Himself, God brings into manifestation that which can never be seen. As the seed is in the plant, as the shade is in the tree, as the void is in the sky, as infinite forms are in the void – so from beyond the Infinite, the Infinite comes; and from the Infinite the finite extends. The creature is in God, and God is in the creature: they are ever distinct, yet ever united. He Himself is the manifold form, the infinite space; He is the breath, the word, and the meaning. He Himself is the limit and the limitless: and beyond both the limited and the limitless is He, the Pure Being.

IX. O how may I ever express that secret word? O how can I say He is not like this, and He is like that? If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed: if I say that He is without me, it is falsehood. He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisibly one; the conscious and the unconscious, both are His footstools. He is neither manifest nor hidden, He is neither revealed nor unrevealed: There are no words to tell that which He is.

XI. My heart must cleave to my Lover; I must withdraw my veil, and meet Him with all my body: Mine eyes must perform the ceremony of the lamps of love. Kabīr says: “Listen to me, friend: he understands who loves. If you feel not love’s longing for your Beloved One, it is vain to adorn your body, vain to put unguent on your eyelids.”

XII. Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale. From what land do you come, O Swan? to what shore will you fly? Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek? Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise, follow me! There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the terror of Death is no more. There the woods of spring are abloom, and the fragrant scent “He is I” is borne on the wind: there the bee of the heart is deeply immersed, and desires no other joy.

XIII. O Lord Increate, who will serve Thee? Every votary offers his worship to the God of his own creation: each day he receives service – none seek Him, the Perfect: God, the Indivisible Lord.

XVII.i The devout seeker is he who mingles in his heart the double currents of love and detachment, like the mingling of the streams of Ganges and Jumna; In his heart the sacred water flows day and night; and thus the round of births and deaths is brought to an end. Behold what wonderful rest is in the Supreme Spirit! and he enjoys it, who makes himself meet for it. Held by the cords of love, the swing of the Ocean of Joy sways to and fro; and a mighty sound breaks forth in song. Only a few pure souls know of its true delight. Music is all around it, and there the heart partakes of the joy of the Infinite Sea. Kabīr says: “Dive thou into that Ocean of sweetness: thus let all errors of life and of death flee away.”

XVII.ii They have sung of Him as infinite and unattainable: but I in my meditations have seen Him without sight. That is indeed the sorrowless land, and none know the path that leads there: Only he who is on that path has surely transcended all sorrow. Wonderful is that land of rest, to which no merit can win; it is the wise who has seen it, it is the wise who has sung of it. This is the Ultimate Word: but can any express its marvellous savour? He who has savoured it once, he knows what joy it can give.

XIX. O my heart! the Supreme Spirit, the great Master, is near you: wake, oh wake! Run to the feet of your Beloved: for your Lord stands near to your head. You have slept for unnumbered ages; this morning will you not wake?

XX. To what shore would you cross, O my heart? there is no traveller before you, there is no road: Where is the movement, where is the rest, on that shore? There is no water; no boat, no boatman, is there; there is not so much as a rope to tow the boat, nor a man to draw it. No earth, no sky, no time, no thing, is there: no shore, no ford! There, there is neither body nor mind: and where is the place that shall still the thirst of the soul? You shall find naught in that emptiness. Be strong, and enter into your own body: for there your foothold is firm. Consider it well, O my heart! go not elsewhere, Kabīr says: “Put all imaginations away, and stand fast in that which you are.”

XXI. Lamps burn in every house, O blind one! and you cannot see them. One day your eyes shall suddenly be opened, and you shall see: and the fetters of death will fall from you. There is nothing to say or to hear, there is nothing to do: it is he who is living, yet dead, who shall never die again.

XXV. My Lord hides Himself, and my Lord wonderfully reveals Himself: my Lord has encompassed me with hardness, and my Lord has cast down my limitations. My Lord brings to me words of sorrow and words of joy, and He Himself heals their strife. I will offer my body and mind to my Lord: I will give up my life, but never can I forget my Lord!

XXXII. Dance, my heart! dance today with joy. The strains of love fill the days and the nights with music, and the world is listening to its melodies: Mad with joy, life and death dance to the rhythm of this music. The hills and the sea and the earth dance. The world of man dances in laughter and tears. Why put on the robe of the monk, and live aloof from the world in lonely pride? Behold! my heart dances in the delight of a hundred arts; and the Creator is well pleased.

XXXIX. O friend! this body is His lyre; He tightens its strings, and draws from it the melody of God. If the strings snap and the keys slacken, then to dust must this instrument of dust return: Kabīr says: “None but God can evoke its melodies.”

XL.i He is dear to me indeed who can call back the wanderer to his home. In the home is the true union, in the home is enjoyment of life: why should I forsake my home and wander in the forest? If God helps me to realize truth, verily I will find both bondage and deliverance in home.

XL.ii He is dear to me indeed who has power to dive deep into God; whose mind loses itself with ease in His contemplation. He is dear to me who knows God, and can dwell on His supreme truth in meditation; and who can play the melody of the Infinite by uniting love and renunciation in life. Kabīr says: “The home is the abiding place; in the home is reality; the home helps to attain Him Who is real. So stay where you are, and all things shall come to you in time.”

XLI. O Sadhu! the simple union is the best. Since the day when I met with my Lord, there has been no end to the sport of our love. I shut not my eyes, I close not my ears, I do not mortify my body; I see with eyes open and smile, and behold His beauty everywhere: I utter His Name, and whatever I see, it reminds me of Him; whatever I do, it becomes His worship.

XLII. There is nothing but water at the holy bathing places; and I know that they are useless, for I have bathed in them. The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know, for I have cried aloud to them. The Purana and the Koran are mere words; lifting up the curtain, I have seen. Kabīr gives utterance to the words of experience; and he knows very well that all other things are untrue.

XLIII. I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty: You do not see that the Real is in your home, and you wander from forest to forest listlessly! Here is the truth! Go where you will, to Benares or Mathura; if you do not find your soul, the world is unreal to you.

XLVII. There is a strange tree, which stands without roots and bears fruits without blossoming; it has no branches and no leaves, it is lotus all over. Two birds sing there; one is the Master, and the other the disciple: the disciple chooses the manifold fruits of life and tastes them, and the Master beholds him in joy. What Kabīr says is hard to understand: “The bird is beyond seeking, yet it is most clearly visible. The Formless is in the midst of all forms. I sing the glory of forms.”

XLVIII. I have stilled my restless mind, and my heart is radiant: for in Thatness I have seen beyond That-ness. In company I have seen the Companion Himself. Living in bondage, I have set myself free: I have broken away from the clutch of all narrowness. Kabīr says: “I have attained the unattainable, and my heart is coloured with the colour of love.”

XLIX. That which you see is not: and for that which is, you have no words. Unless you see, you believe not: what you are told you cannot accept. He who is discerning knows by the word; and the ignorant stands gaping. Some contemplate the Formless, and others meditate on form: but the wise man knows that God is beyond both. That beauty of His is not seen of the eye: that metre of His is not heard of the ear. Kabīr says: “He who has found both love and renunciation never descends to death.”

L. The flute of the Infinite is played without ceasing, and its sound is love: when love renounces all limits, it reaches truth. How widely the fragrance spreads! It has no end, nothing stands in its way. The form of this melody is bright like a million suns: incomparably sounds the vina, the vina of the notes of truth.

LI. Dear friend, I am eager to meet my Beloved! My youth has flowered, and the pain of separation from Him troubles my breast. I am wandering yet in the alleys of knowledge without purpose, but I have received His news in these alleys of knowledge. I have a letter from my Beloved: in this letter is an unutterable message, and now my fear of death is done away. Kabīr says: “O my loving friend! I have got for my gift the Deathless One.”

LIV. Have you not heard the tune which the Unstruck Music is playing? In the midst of the chamber the harp of joy is gently and sweetly played; and where is the need of going without to hear it? If you have not drunk of the nectar of that One Love, what boots it though you should purge yourself of all stains? The Qadi is searching the words of the Koran, and instructing others: but if his heart be not steeped in that love, what does it avail, though he be a teacher of men? The Yogi dyes his garments with red: but if he knows naught of that colour of love, what does it avail though his garments be tinted? Kabīr says: “Whether I be in the temple or the balcony, in the camp or in the flower garden, I tell you truly that every moment my Lord is taking His delight in me.”

LV. Subtle is the path of love! Therein there is no asking and no not-asking, there one loses one’s self at His feet, there one is immersed in the joy of the seeking: plunged in the deeps of love as the fish in the water. The lover is never slow in offering his head for his Lord’s service. Kabīr declares the secret of this love.

LVI. He is the real Sadhu, who can reveal the form of the Formless to the vision of these eyes: who teaches the simple way of attaining Him, that is other than rites or ceremonies: who does not make you close the doors, and hold the breath, and renounce the world: who makes you perceive the Supreme Spirit wherever the mind attaches itself: who teaches you to be still in the midst of all your activities. Ever immersed in bliss, having no fear in his mind, he keeps the spirit of union in the midst of all enjoyments. The infinite dwelling of the Infinite Being is everywhere: in earth, water, sky, and air: firm as the thunderbolt, the seat of the seeker is established above the void. He who is within is without: I see Him and none else.

LIX. O man, if thou dost not know thine own Lord, whereof art thou so proud? Put thy cleverness away: mere words shall never unite thee to Him. Do not deceive thyself with the witness of the Scriptures: Love is something other than this, and he who has sought it truly has found it.

LXI. When at last you are come to the ocean of happiness, do not go back thirsty. Wake, foolish man! for Death stalks you. Here is pure water before you; drink it at every breath. Kabīr says: “Listen to me, brother! The nest of fear is broken. Not for a moment have you come face to face with the world: you are weaving your bondage of falsehood, your words are full of deception: with the load of desires which you hold on your head, how can you be light?” Kabīr says: “Keep within you truth, detachment, and love.”

LXIII. Why so impatient, my heart? He who watches over birds, beasts, and insects, He who cared for you whilst you were yet in your mother’s womb, shall He not care for you now that you are come forth? Oh my heart, how could you turn from the smile of your Lord and wander so far from Him? You have left Your Beloved and are thinking of others: and this is why all your work is in vain.

LXV. It is not the austerities that mortify the flesh which are pleasing to the Lord; when you leave off your clothes and kill your senses, you do not please the Lord: the man who is kind and who practises righteousness, who remains passive amidst the affairs of the world, who considers all creatures on earth as his own self, He attains the Immortal Being, the true God is ever with him. Kabīr says: “He attains the true Name whose words are pure, and who is free from pride and conceit.”

LXVI. The Yogi dyes his garments, instead of dyeing his mind in the colours of love: He sits within the temple of the Lord, leaving God to worship a stone. He pierces holes in his ears, he has a great beard and matted locks, he looks like a goat: He goes forth into the wilderness, killing all his desires, and turns himself into an eunuch: He shaves his head and dyes his garments; he reads the Gita and becomes a mighty talker. Kabīr says: “You are going to the doors of death, bound hand and foot!”

LXVII. I do not know what manner of God is mine. The Mullah cries aloud to Him: and why? Is your Lord deaf? The subtle anklets that ring on the feet of an insect when it moves are heard of Him. Tell your beads, paint your forehead with the mark of your God, and wear matted locks long and showy: but a deadly weapon is in your heart, and how shall you have God?

LXVIII. I hear the melody of His flute, and I cannot contain myself: the flower blooms, though it is not spring; and already the bee has received its invitation. The sky roars and the lightning flashes, the waves arise in my heart, the rain falls; and my heart longs for my Lord. Where the rhythm of the world rises and falls, thither my heart has reached: there the hidden banners are fluttering in the air. Kabīr says: “My heart is dying, though it lives.”

LXIX. If God be within the mosque, then to whom does this world belong? If Ram be within the image which you find upon your pilgrimage, then who is there to know what happens without? Hari is in the East: Allah is in the West. Look within your heart, for there you will find both Karim and Ram; All the men and women of the world are His living forms. Kabīr is the child of Allah and of Ram: He is my Master, He is my Pir.

LXX. He who is meek and contented, he who has an equal vision, whose mind is filled with the fullness of acceptance and of rest; He who has seen Him and touched Him, he is freed from all fear and trouble. To him the perpetual thought of God is like sandal paste smeared on the body, to him nothing else is delight: His work and his rest are filled with music: he sheds abroad the radiance of love. Kabīr says: “Touch His feet, who is one and indivisible, immutable and peaceful; who fills all vessels to the brim with joy, and whose form is love.”

LXXI. Go thou to the company of the good, where the Beloved One has His dwelling place: take all thy thoughts and love and instruction from thence. Let that assembly be burnt to ashes where His Name is not spoken! Tell me, how couldst thou hold a wedding-feast, if the bridegroom himself were not there? Waver no more, think only of the Beloved; Set not thy heart on the worship of other gods, there is no worth in the worship of other masters. Kabīr deliberates and says: “Thus thou shalt never find the Beloved!”

LXXII. The jewel is lost in the mud, and all are seeking for it; some look for it in the east, and some in the west; some in the water and some amongst stones. But the servant Kabīr has appraised it at its true value, and has wrapped it with care in the end of the mantle of his heart.

LXXIV. O my heart! you have not known all the secrets of this city of love: in ignorance you came, and in ignorance you return. O my friend, what have you done with this life? You have taken on your head the burden heavy with stones, and who is to lighten it for you? Your Friend stands on the other shore, but you never think in your mind how you may meet with Him: the boat is broken, and yet you sit ever upon the bank; and thus you are beaten to no purpose by the waves. The servant Kabīr asks you to consider; who is there that shall befriend you at the last? You are alone, you have no companion: you will suffer the consequences of your own deeds.

LXXVI.i Open your eyes of love, and see Him who pervades this world I consider it well, and know that this is your own country. When you meet the true Master, He will awaken your heart; He will tell you the secret of love and detachment, and then you will know indeed that He transcends this universe. This world is the City of Truth, its maze of paths enchants the heart: we can reach the goal without crossing the road, such is the sport unending. Where the ring of manifold joys ever dances about Him, there is the sport of Eternal Bliss. When we know this, then all our receiving and renouncing is over; thenceforth the heat of having shall never scorch us more.

LXXVI.ii He is the Ultimate Rest unbounded: He has spread His form of love throughout all the world. From that Ray which is Truth, streams of new forms are perpetually springing: and He pervades those forms. All the gardens and groves and bowers are abounding with blossom; and the air breaks forth into ripples of joy. There the swan plays a wonderful game, there the Unstruck Music eddies around the Infinite One; there in the midst the Throne of the Unheld is shining, whereon the great Being sits – millions of suns are shamed by the radiance of a single hair of His body.

LXXVI.iii On the harp of the road what true melodies are being sounded! its notes pierce the heart: there the Eternal Fountain is playing its endless life-streams of birth and death. They call Him Emptiness who is the Truth of truths, in Whom all truths are stored! There within Him creation goes forward, which is beyond all philosophy; for philosophy cannot attain to Him: there is an endless world, O my Brother! and there is the Nameless Being, of whom naught can be said. Only he knows it who has reached that region: it is other than all that is heard and said. No form, no body, no length, no breadth is seen there: how can I tell you that which it is? He comes to the Path of the Infinite on whom the grace of the Lord descends: he is freed from births and deaths who attains to Him. Kabīr says: “It cannot be told by the words of the mouth, it cannot be written on paper: it is like a dumb person who tastes a sweet thing – how shall it be ex-plained?”

LXXVII. O my heart! let us go to that country where dwells the Beloved, the ravisher of my heart! There Love is filling her pitcher from the well, yet she has no rope wherewith to draw water; there the clouds do not cover the sky, yet the rain falls down in gentle showers: O bodiless one! do not sit on your doorstep; go forth and bathe yourself in that rain! There it is ever moonlight and never dark; and who speaks of one sun only? that land is illuminate with the rays of a million suns.

LXXVIII. Kabīr says: “O Sadhu! hear my deathless words. If you want your own good, examine and consider them well. You have estranged yourself from the Creator, of whom you have sprung: you have lost your reason, you have bought death. All doctrines and all teachings are sprung from Him, from Him they grow: know this for certain, and have no fear. Hear from me the tidings of this great truth! Whose name do you sing, and on whom do you meditate? O, come forth from this entanglement! He dwells at the heart of all things, so why take refuge in empty desolation? If you place the Master at a distance from you, then it is but the distance that you honour: If indeed the Master be far away, then who is it else that is creating this world? When you think that He is not here, then you wander further and further away, and seek Him in vain with tears. Where He is far off, there He is unattainable: where He is near, He is very bliss. Kabīr says: “Lest His servant should suffer pain He pervades him through and through.” Know yourself then, O Kabīr; for He is in you from head to foot. Sing with gladness, and keep your seat unmoved within your heart.

LXXIX. I am neither pious nor ungodly, I live neither by law nor by sense, I am neither a speaker nor hearer, I am neither a servant nor master, I am neither bond nor free, I am neither detached nor attached. I am far from none: I am near to none. I shall go neither to hell nor to heaven. I do all works; yet I am apart from all works. Few comprehend my meaning: he who can comprehend it, he sits unmoved. Kabīr seeks neither to establish nor to destroy.

LXXX. The true Name is like none other name! The distinction of the Conditioned from the Unconditioned is but a word: The Unconditioned is the seed, the Conditioned is the flower and the fruit. Knowledge is the branch, and the Name is the root. Look, and see where the root is: happiness shall be yours when you come to the root. The root will lead you to the branch, the leaf, the flower, and the fruit: It is the encounter with the Lord, it is the attainment of bliss, it is the reconciliation of the Conditioned and the Unconditioned.

LXXXIII. The harp gives forth murmurous music; and the dance goes on without hands and feet. It is played without fingers, it is heard without ears: for He is the ear, and He is the listener. The gate is locked, but within there is fragrance: and there the meeting is seen of none. The wise shall understand it.

LXXXV. My heart cries aloud for the house of my lover; the open road and the shelter of a roof are all one to her who has lost the city of her husband. My heart finds no joy in anything: my mind and my body are distraught. His palace has a million gates, but there is a vast ocean between it and me: How shall I cross it, O friend? for endless is the outstretching of the path. How wondrously this lyre is wrought! When its strings are rightly strung, it maddens the heart: but when the keys are broken and the strings are loosened, none regard it more.

LXXXVI. Serve your God, who has come into this temple of life! Do not act the part of a madman, for the night is thickening fast. He has awaited me for countless ages, for love of me He has lost His heart: yet I did not know the bliss that was so near to me, for my love was not yet awake. But now, my Lover has made known to me the meaning of the note that struck my ear: now, my good fortune is come. Kabīr says: “Behold! how great is my good fortune! I have received the unending caress of my Beloved!”

LXXXVIII. This day is dear to me above all other days, for today the Beloved Lord is a guest in my house; my chamber and my courtyard are beautiful with His presence. My longings sing His Name, and they are become lost in His great beauty: I wash His feet, and I look upon His Face; and I lay before Him as an offering my body, my mind, and all that I have. What a day of gladness is that day in which my Beloved, who is my treasure, comes to my house! All evils fly from my heart when I see my Lord. “My love has touched Him; my heart is longing for the Name which is Truth.” Thus sings Kabīr, the servant of all servants.

LXXXIX. Is there any wise man who will listen to that solemn music which arises in the sky? For He, the Source of all music, makes all vessels full fraught, and rests in fullness Himself. He who is in the body is ever athirst, for he pursues that which is in part: but ever there wells forth deeper and deeper the sound “He is this – this is He”; fusing love and renunciation into one. Kabīr says: “O brother! that is the Primal Word.”

XC. To whom shall I go to learn about my Beloved? Kabīr says: “As you never may find the forest if you ignore the tree, so He may never be found in abstractions.”

XCI. I have learned the Sanskrit language, so let all men call me wise: but where is the use of this, when I am floating adrift, and parched with thirst, and burning with the heat of desire? To no purpose do you bear on your head this load of pride and vanity. Kabīr says: “Lay it down in the dust, and go forth to meet the Beloved. Address Him as your Lord.”

XCII. The woman who is parted from her lover spins at the spinning wheel. The city of the body arises in its beauty; and within it the palace of the mind has been built. The wheel of love revolves in the sky, and the seat is made of the jewels of knowledge: what subtle threads the woman weaves, and makes them fine with love and reverence! Kabīr says: “I am weaving the garland of day and night. When my Lover comes and touches me with His feet, I shall offer Him my tears.”

XCIII. Beneath the great umbrella of my King millions of suns and moons and stars are shining! He is the Mind within my mind: He is the Eye within mine eye. Ah, could my mind and eyes be one! Could my love but reach to my Lover! Could but the fiery heat of my heart be cooled! Kabīr says: “When you unite love with the Lover, then you have love’s perfection.”

XCIV. O Sadhu! my land is a sorrowless land. I cry aloud to all, to the king and the beggar, the emperor and the fakir – Whosoever seeks for shelter in the Highest, let all come and settle in my land! Let the weary come and lay his burdens here! So live here, my brother, that you may cross with ease to that other shore. It is a land without earth or sky, without moon or stars; for only the radiance of Truth shines in my Lord’s Durbar. Kabīr says: “O beloved brother! naught is essential save Truth.”

XCVII. O servant! put false pride away, and seek for Him within you. A million suns are ablaze with light, the sea of blue spreads in the sky, the fever of life is stilled, and all stains are washed away; when I sit in the midst of that world. Hark to the unstruck bells and drums! Take your delight in love! Rains pour down without water, and the rivers are streams of light. One Love it is that pervades the whole world, few there are who know it fully: they are blind who hope to see it by the light of reason, that reason which is the cause of separation – the House of Reason is very far away!

XCIX. Where they sing His praise, there I live; when He moves, I walk before Him: my heart yearns for my Beloved. The infinite pilgrimage lies at His feet, a million devotees are seated there. Kabīr says: “The Lover Himself reveals the glory of true love.”

First published in 1915