Your spirit is mingled with mine

by Mansur al- Hallaj

English version by Bernard Lewis
Original Language Arabic

Your spirit is mingled with mine
as wine is mixed with water;
whatever touches you touches me.
In all the stations of the soul you are I.

-- from Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Translated by Bernard Lewis

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/ Image by Pawel Czerwinski /

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

In the past couple of weeks I have been reorganizing my small office space and cleaning up a lot of stored papers. In particular, I have been going through all of the mail I've received from the Poetry Chaikhana community over the years, quite literally hundreds of short notes, long letters, greeting cards.

I have to let you all know how profoundly moved I am by all of your messages of love and support over the past nearly twenty years, letting me know how much the Poetry Chaikhana means to you, has helped your through difficult times, has deepened your spiritual practice in some way, and has inspired you in your own creative expression. In many cases I have sent replies, but the sheer volume of correspondence has made my responses less frequent. But I read every message sent to me, and I always send an energetic response, even when I don't send a written one. Today I am feeling especially humbled and grateful for the small mountain of letters and cards I've received from you all over the years.

Sending love to you all in return.

Now, for today's poem...


The great Sufi mystic poet, Hallaj, was persecuted and eventually put to death by orthodox religious authorities for poems like this, in which he seems to be equating himself with God.

This is the danger faced by most mystics. The sacred experience is one of ecstatic union with the Divine. Where do "you" cease to be, and where does the Divine begin? In mystical union, these questions are artificial since the Divine is everywhere and no tangible sense of you as a separate individual remains. There aren't two in which to have a relationship; there is only the One.

Particularly notice the image of wine mixing with water. This sounds like a passing metaphor, but it actually resonates with layers of esoteric meaning.

"Wine" here is not wine; it is the drink of divine union. It is the "water" of the purified soul, awakened and flavored with the fermenting fire of life. This is the celestial drink of initiates: the amrita of the yogis, the ambrosia of the Greeks, even the tea of our own poetry teahouse...

water = the purified individual soul
wine = the sweet, blissful flood of the Divine

When wine is poured into water, water takes on the nature of wine, until no difference can be perceived. This is how he comes to that final line of realization:

In all the stations of the soul you are I.

When the divine wine pours into the clear water of the soul, everything is turned to wine. God and self become indistinguishable. Rather, self is lost and only God remains.

As a result, mystics keep producing ecstatic and dangerous poems like this one, and orthodox authorities keep trying to silence or marginalize them.


PS- Nameless

I am honored to have been included in th new poetry anthology nameless: a riff of 44 images complemented by poetry, by Rashani Réa & Six Contemporary Poets. This is a delightful collection collage art by Rashani Réa, accompanied by haiku and short poems by six poets, yours truly included. One of mine from the book:

chance meeting
were we ever apart
my many selves and i?

A lovely book to sit down with and read at any page.

You can support Rashani Réa's work by purchasing a copy through Amazon:
click here.

Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
More Books >>

Your spirit is