On Death – from The Book of Mirdad
MIRDAD DIVINES THE DEATH OF HIMBAL’S FATHER AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES THEROF. HE SPEAKS OF DEATH. TIME IS THE GREATEST JUGGLER THE WHEEL OF TIME, ITS RIM AND ITS AXIS
Naronda: Much water had leapt down the mountains and swept into the sea when the companions, lacking Himbal, were once more gathered round the Master in the Aerie.
The Master was discoursing on the omniwill. But suddenly he stopped and said,
MIRDAD: Himbal is in distress and would come to us for relief, but his feet are too ashamed to carry him hither. Go and assist him, Abimar.
Naronda: Abimar went out and soon returned with Himbal who was shaking with sobs and had a most unhappy countenance.
MIRDAD: come near me, Himbal.
Ah, Himbal, Himbal. Because your father died you let grief gnaw your heart and turn its blood to tears. What would you do when all your family die? What would you do when all the
fathers and the mothers, and all the sisters and the brothers in this world pass out of and beyond the reach of your hands and eyes?
Himbal: Aye, Master . my father died a violent death. A steer he had recently bought gored his belly and crushed his skull but yertereve. I have just been told it by the messenger. Woe is me. Ah, woe is me.
MIRDAD: And he died, it seems, at the very time when the fortunes of this world were about to smile to him.
Himbal: It is so, Master. It is even so.
MIRDAD: And his death pains you the keener because the steer was bought with the money you had sent him.
Himbal : It is so, Master . It is even so. You seem to know all things. MIRDAD: Which money was the price of your love for Mirdad. Naronda: Himbal could speak no more; for he choked with tears.
MIRDAD: Your father is not dead, Himbal. Nor dead are yet his form and shadow. But dead, indeed, are your senses to your father’s altered form and shadow. For there be forms so delicate, with shadow so attenuated that the coarse eye of man cannot detect.
The shadow of a cedar in the forest is not the same as the shadow of that cedar become a mast upon a ship, or a pillar in the temple, or scaffolding for gallows. Nor is the shadow of that cedar in the sun the same as it is in the light of the moon, or the stars, or in the purple haze of dawn.
Yet that cedar, no matter how transformed, lives on as a cedar, thought the cedars in the forest
recognize it no longer as their sister of yore.
Can a silkworm on the leaf discern a sister in the worm pupating in the silk cocoon? Or can the latter see a sister in the silk moth on the wing?
Can a grain of wheat in the earth know her kinship with a stalk of wheat above the earth? Can the vapors in the air, or the waters in the sea, own as sisters and brothers the icicles in a
Can the earth discern a sister star in a meteor hurled unto her out of the deeps of Space? Can the oak see itself in the acorn?
Because your father is now in a light to which your eye is not accustomed and in a form, which you cannot discern, you say your father is no more. But Man’s material self, no matter where transported and how changed, is bound to cast a shadow until dissolved entirely in the light of man’s God-Self.
A piece of wood, be it to-day a green branch on a tree and a peg in the wall to-morrow, continues to be wood and to change in form and shadow until consumed by the fire within it. Likewise shall Man continue to be a man, when living as when dead, until the God in him consume him; which is to say, until he understands his oneness with The One. But this is not to be accomplished in that twinkling of an eye which men are pleased to designate as a lifetime.
All time is lifetime, my Companions.
There are no halts and starts in Time. Nor are there caravanserais where travelers may stop for refreshment and rest.
Time is a continuity, which overlaps itself. Its rear is coupled to its van. Nothing is ended and dismissed in Time; and nothing is begun and finished.
Time is a wheel created by the senses, and by the senses set a whirling in the voids of Space. You sense the bewildering change of seasons and you believe, therefore, that all is in the
clutches of change. But you allow withal that the power which folds and unfolds the seasons is everlastingly one and the same.
You sense the growth of things and their decay, and you declare despondently that decay is the end of all growing things. But you avow that the force which makes for the growth and decay itself neither grows nor decays.
You sense the speed of the wind in relation to the breeze; and you say that the wind is the swiftest by far. But despite that you admit that the mover of the wind and the mover of the breeze is one and the same and neither dashes with the wind, nor toddles with the breeze.
How credulous you are ! How gullible of every trick your senses play on you ! Where is your imagination? For with it only can you see that all the changes, which bewilder you, are but a sleight of hand?
How can the wind be swifter than the breeze? Does not the breeze give birth to the wind? Does not the wind carry with it the breeze?
You walkers on the Earth, how measure you the distances you walk with paces and with leagues? Whether you saunter or gallop, are you not carried on by the speed of the Earth into the spaces and regions whither the Earth herself is carried? Is not your gait, therefore, the same as the gait of the Earth? Is not the Earth, in turn, carried along by the other bodies, and her speed made equal to their speed?
Yea, the slow is the mother of the swift. The swift is the carrier of the slow. And the swift and slow are inseparable at every point of time and Space.
How say you that growth is growth and decay is decay, and that the one is the other’s enemy? Has anything ever sprung up except out of something decayed? Has anything every decayed except from something growing?
Are not the dead the subsoil of the living, and the living, the granaries of the dead?
If growth be the child of decay, and decay be the child of growth; if Life be the mother of Death, and Death be the mother of Life, then verily were they but one at every point of Time and Space. And verily were your joy for living and for growing so stupid as your grief for dying and decaying.
How say you that Autumn only is the season of grapes? I say that the grape is ripe in Winter, too , when it is but a drowsing sap pulsating imperceptibly and dreaming its dreams in the vine; and also in the Spring when it comes out in tender clusters of tiny beads of emerald; and also in the Summer when the clusters spread out and the beads swell up, and their cheeks become
tinted with the gold of the Sun.
If every season carry in itself the other three, then verily were all the seasons one at every point of Time and Space.
Aye, Time is the greatest juggler, and men are the greatest dupes.
Much like the squirrel in the wheel, Man who has set the wheel of Time a-turning is so enthralled and carried by the motion that he no longer can believe himself to be the mover, nor can he ‘find the time’ to stay the whir of Time.
And much like the cat that licks its tongue away in licking a whetstone believing the blood it licks to be seeping from the stone, Man licks his very blood spilled on the rim of Time, and munches his very flesh rent by the spokes of Time believing them to be the blood and flesh of Time.
The wheel of time revolves in the voids of Space. Upon its rim are all the things perceivable by the senses, which are unable to perceive a thing except in Time and Space. So things continue to appear and disappear. What disappears for one at a certain point of Time and Space appears to another at another point. What may be up to one is down to another. What may be day to
one is to another night, depending on the ‘When’ and ‘Where’ of the looker on.
One is the road of Life and Death, O monks, upon the rim of the wheel of Time. For motion in
a circle can never reach an end, nor ever spent itself. And every motion in the world is a motion in a circle.
Shall Man , then never free himself of the vicious circle of Time? Man shall, because man is heir to God’s holy Freedom.
The wheel of time rotates, but its axis is ever at rest.
God is the axis of the wheel of Time. Though all things rotate about Him in Time and Space, yet is He always timeless and space-less and still. Though all things proceed from His Word, yet is His Word as timeless and space-less as He.
In the axis all is peace. On the rim all is commotion. Where would you rather be ?
I say to you, slip from the rim of Time into the axis and spare yourselves the nausea of motion.
Let Time revolve about you; but you revolve not with Time.