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The Light Divine in the life of Rumi

POSTED: November 5, 2017 12:29 a.m.
Jerry Johnston/

Andrew Harvey is the founder director of the Institute of Sacred Activism.

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If you’ve never heard of a fellow named Rumi, be patient. You will.

For many years now his spiritual insights have been seeping into American culture. According to Andrew Harvey, Rumi’s basic message is this: “We are the children of divine light and each of us is a king or a queen.”

Rumi was a Sufi, what we’ve come to call a whirling dervish. Like King David, he danced his prayers. And, like David, he wrote poems that will be part of humanity as long as humanity endures.

He was a native of Afghanistan, but his writing never mentions smart bombs and hand grenades. One reason is because he lived 800 years ago. But a bigger reason is Rumi had one basic theme: Divine love.

You may have never heard his name, but now you’ve read this column I guarantee his name will pop up in your life; mostly because Rumi’s message seems to chime with more and more people who are looking for a way to get out of the mess we’ve created.

Rumi pushes for a spiritual awakening in the world, a new vision of light and love. It is, he says, the only way we can stop our downward spiral.

And last week, Harvey, perhaps Rumi’s most passionate follower, came to Salt Lake City to keep Rumi’s ancient message alive.

Harvey, a celebrated lecturer, has his own checkered and intriguing history, but on this night he was intent on showcasing the words and wisdom of his mentor and model, Jelaluddin Rumi.

And Harvey used every tool in his bag. He preached, he prayed, he read poetry, he taught, he pleaded and he sang. By hook or crook he was determined to break through the cynicism in the world and touch the spiritual bliss he sees at the heart of us all.

In a two-hour “performance” at the Leonardo, he had a lot to say.

“Rumi was the Shakespeare of the Soul,” he said. “With Rumi, you are in the presence of a lion who is roaring out who you really are. And if you think you can understand Rumi’s poetry with just your mind, you might as well run into the street and lie down in front of a friendly truck. Rumi was God’s wild warrior.”

It was an exhausting evening — for Harvey and for many listening to him.

But through sheer enthusiasm, if Harvey was able to convince one person that spirituality is the way to truly rescue the world, I’m sure he felt his time here was worth the energy and effort.

He quoted several of Rumi’s 3,600 poems.

Having been clued in to Rumi several years ago, I have my own favorites.

Let me leave you with an example.

As Harvey said, don’t try to puzzle it out. Just let the words wash over you.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box, from cell to cell.

As rainwater, down into flowerbed.

As roses, up from the ground.

Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff covered with vines, now a horse being saddled.

It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.

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