Posted in Essay, John Anstie, Poems/Poetry, teacher

Enduring Ancient Wisdom

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (1207-1273), Iranian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad  Rumi (1207-1273), Persian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic

I’m trying to follow the theme of an essay, which I wrote for Into the Bardo, “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours The Bold)”, which was published here at the beginning of August. It was a deeply thoughtful piece that probably comes from my own anxieties at the state of the world. In consequence, it became an overly long and involved treatise, in which I tried to encapsulate my understanding of what needs to happen to rescue the human race from itself.

An impossible dream, you might say, and you could be right. However, a couple of weeks after publishing it, I stumbled upon something that struck me between the eyes! It was an eight hundred year old poem, which felt as if it were a personal message from somewhere unknown! Also, another article that was posted here on Into The Bardo, last Saturday, A Biassed Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: A Message from the Dalai Lama, (Excerpts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August), spoke of how human ‘agitation’ was the cause of many of our woes. This was a particularly enlightening read; I recommend it to you highly.

The first three verses of this poem, appeared from Rumi’s Facebook page and struck me in a number of ways, not least of all because it represents a special milestone in the recognition of so much that I believe about the human condition, which is to recognise our own individuality, our own convictions and that, I would argue, we should take responsibility for our own actions. I had, therefore to seek out its source and find the rest of the poem, written by that much revered Thirteenth Century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.

“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world” – isn’t this the space between our ears?

“Why do you weep? The source is within you” – ditto

I have, for a long time, recognised that, whilst we may cover ourselves with a veneer of sophistication, we cannot hide from the frailty of our very human condition. The Industrial Revolution, the engineering and technology, which has resulted over the following two hundred and fifty years, may have produced some remarkable examples of our ingenuity, but the problems of the world that remain, which are, for the most part, of our own making, are the same in essence as they were when this poem was written nearly eight hundred years ago, when humans were still humans, but without the technology. It seems a strange irony that this could be a sign that our resultant wealth, which is far more widely distributed than it was eight hundred years ago, has blurred our vision of life’s purpose, whilst at the same time (certainly in the case of this post) aided it, with computer technology.

When we’ve learned this lesson, when we’ve learned, not just how to recognise this fact, but how to respond to it, to imbue the young minds of future generations with the knowledge that they need to discover how they are going to embrace all cultures, all religions and all manner of human personalities (because we adults have not made a great job of it so far and are clearly not entirely capable of teaching them) then, and only then, will we be truly able to move on as a race … and awaken to that much vaunted new dawn, that enlightenment.

I give you the words of one, who probably knew much more and was more qualified than most of us living today to understand the human condition …

A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!
From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.
From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.
Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?
When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!
But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!

– Jelaluddin Rumi

A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi
(translated by Jonathan Star), Bantam Books, NY, 1992, pp. 148-149
Edited by Peter Y. Chou,

© 2013, essay and portrait below, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).


John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.


“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”

9 thoughts on “Enduring Ancient Wisdom

  1. Sometimes in an interview, people ask “If you could invite anyone, living or dead, to dinner–who would you invite.” I just added Rumi to my list. The Dali Lama is already there! Thanks for a thoughtful post, John.


  2. Reminds me of the Scale of the Universe guide…zooming from sub-atomic particles to the cosmos as a whole…this is also the unseen world; it is too small or too big to see. The essence of the whole shebang? The Source? Do we call it Energy? God? Life? Consciousness? Does it matter if we name it or not? I suppose the more important thing is not to fear it.


    1. In a nutshell, Scillagrace, that’s it! No more fear, just press on with our life’s work, in the knowledge that we are but a drop in the ocean, or there is an ocean that is a drop in us. It is mind boggling when you realise this, fantastic.


  3. Thank you Robert. I can’t play the videos on my iPad or phone, but will do so tomorrow when I get to my desk top computer. It’s good to know there’s so much more to this awesome phenomenon we know as the universe and your last point, about the paradox of how small and yet large we are – embracing, perhaps, the full spectrum of size from the smallest known particles to the largest systems, is mind boggling.


Kindly phrased comments welcome here.

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