Sufi Spiritual Stories - Phoenix Rising

Interrogative Imperative Institute

Sufi Spiritual Stories: Although developed through a Sufi, mystical perspective,

the short stories related here are applicable to almost any spiritual tradition because the underlying principles of spirituality and mysticism tend to remain largely the same across time, geography, and people ... although the language used to describe the mystical path may vary somewhat from tradition to tradition.

Phoenix Rising

From the first moment she laid eyes on the man, she was consumed with love for him. She thought about him day and night. He was in her dreams and fantasies.

Through some complex, strange form of association, everywhere she looked she was reminded of him by what she saw. When he was near she was in ecstasy, and when he was away, her being was filled with sighs and sobs.

She constantly asked the people she met if they had seen him. If they had not, she moved on in search of someone who had, and if the people whom she met had seen the man, she would implore them to give every last detail of their encounters -- often asking them to repeat some part of the account which she particularly liked.

She only had three problems. First, she already was married. Secondly, people were beginning to talk and a huge scandal was brewing because her husband was a very influential and jealous individual. Thirdly, the man of her affections did not appear to be in love with her, and even if he were, his spiritual character was such that he would, God willing, resist any temptation which might be thrown in his path by her.

And, she did try to seduce him in a variety of ways and on a variety of levels. But, without success.

These failures did not depress her. In fact, quite the opposite, since the more her plans did not work, the more determined she became, and, as a result she was spending all her time, effort, talents, and abilities focusing on winning him over, and she enjoyed this, much like a huntress might enjoy a hunt in which early set backs only made the final conquest all the sweeter.

A time finally came, however, when her husband was fed up with her antics. More and more, the whole situation had become a huge source of embarrassment for him because, now, his wife was not even bothering to hide her obsession from public view anymore, as, at least, she had done when she first became enamored with, and mesmerized by, the stranger.

His wife and he had become the talk of the town, both in the gossip columns, as well as nearly every party and social occasion being held in the city. He couldn't go anywhere without running in to those 'funny looks' which bothered and upset so much.

He knew what lay behind those looks - namely, minds tittering over someone else's misery and difficulty. People heaped ridicule upon him behind his back, and, then, became excessively quiet whenever he happened by their hushed conversations, only to begin chattering again as soon as he walked a 'respectable' distance away, looking at him recede from them with amusement smeared on their lips like some uneaten piece of carrion.

The situation was affecting his ability to conduct business and politics effectively. Enough was enough, so he threw his wife into the street and by means which were as cruel as they were legally permissible, he cut her off without a dime and made sure that no one in the city would give her employment, and, consequently, she became homeless and a beggar.

Many years passed and the scandal had, more or less, been forgotten. Occasionally, people in the so-called circles of cultural refinement played 'Do you remember' and reminisced about lives which should have been laid to rest long ago but were being dug up again as a tonic for some ghoulish hunger, much as a grave robber might go looking for targets of opportunity amidst the shadows of the soul's darkness, and whenever this occurred, the players would recount the whole affair once again.

One day, the man who had been the object of the married woman's obsession was on errand in the center of the city. As he crossed the street and was waiting for a car to pass by, he looked toward an alleyway which was next to the store where he was headed, and he thought he saw a familiar face.

When he got to the far curb, he took a closer look at the person who was sitting on the pavement, and, his earlier impression was confirmed. The woman who had fallen madly in love with him so many years ago, was sitting with a bowl in her lap, her eyes closed, and her lips seemed to be moving. A sign next to her read: "Please give alms for the poor."

He took out his wallet and put some currency in the receptacle on her lap. Her eyes remained closed.

He stood over her, not knowing whether to move on or stay for a while longer, waiting to see if she would open her eyes. He did not wish to embarrass her, but he had lost track of her after her husband threw her out and, often, had thought about her with concern, and he would have liked to say 'Hello' and see if there was anything he could do for her.

She had been a beautiful woman back then. If she had been single, he would have married her in a fraction of a New York second, but since she was not, all he could do was resist her advances, try to avoid her when possible, and feel badly for both her and her husband since the woman obviously had been struck by a force which transcends all reason.

The years -- and street time weighs more heavily on humans than can be measured even in dog-years -- had taken an obvious toll on the woman. She was no longer either young or beautiful. Creases lined her face and grey eddies ran through her hair.

He was about to leave when she stirred, shifted her position slightly, and, then, opened her eyes. She had the look of someone who had been far away without having gone anywhere.

She squinted against the sudden glare of light and looked upward. A smile of recognition came across her lips, and a twinkle came into her gaze. She said: "How are you?"

He crouched down, to be level with her, and put his hand on her shoulder. "I'm fine, and how are you?"

She replied: "I am as you see me, and, praise be to God, I am happy despite my worldly circumstances."

Feeling empathy for her well up in his heart, he realized he still loved this woman although he could never have confessed to her back when without helping an already impossible situation to deteriorate further into chaos and madness. He spoke to her of the love which he used to have, and still had, for her and why he been silent about it all these years.

She said nothing, and just looked at him with affection. There was an aura of satisfaction which had gathered about her like morning mist around a field.

He said: "I heard long ago that your husband divorced you. I've often searched for you, but always without success ... until now. And, since you are an eligible woman, if you wish, I would be very happy if you would become my wife and let me take you away from all this" -- and as he said this, he moved his hand in a general reference to her immediate physical circumstances.

She lowered her head and, then, raised it again and looked into his eyes. She said: "Well, I am single, but I am not eligible."

Not sure what she meant by her remark, he said: "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

She closed her eyes and began to talk. "Back when I was caught up in my madness concerning you, I did not comprehend what was going on. I didn't realize that the source of my overwhelming love was not you, per se, but rather, you were the locus of manifestation through which something else shone, and I confused you with that which was shining through you.

I realize, now, I was like a deer caught in the headlights of Divinity, and you were merely the car which brought that light toward me. You were the candle, but God was the flame."

She opened her eyes and although she looked down the street, her vision was somewhere else. As she stared at that which was both near and far, she continued to speak: "I no longer have need of an external candle, because the flame burns within me now. The light that shone through you has ignited something within me which, God willing, is self-sustaining, and I am happy with the warmth and joy this inner light gives to me. This has been my Companion all these many years ... this is what has, and continues to, sustain me."

She returned her gaze to him. "You are very loving and sweet to offer your hand in marriage. Indeed, your very loving and kind nature was the wax that formed the candle which, all those many years ago, permitted the Divine light to shine through and melt my heart. But, I am fine ... now, go back to your life with peace, secure in the knowledge that the woman you worried about all these many years has been, and is, happy and content with her life's destiny."

She looked at him for a few more seconds, and, then, closed her eyes and her lips began to move again in a silent hymn. He stood, looked down at her with a sense of awe and admiration, and, then, turned and walked away.

But, the story does not end here. For always, that which unfolds is continuously unfolding.

Several more years passed. The human candle had just come out of a store and was thinking about whether he should walk home or hail a cab -- the weather had been unsettled for most of the day and rain seemed to be hiding in the air, ready to spill down.

He felt a tug on his arm, turned around and, once more, was looking into the face of the same beggar woman. Without any preliminary chit-chat, she said: "If the offer of marriage still stands, I accept."

The man laughed, as much out of the unexpectedness of her words as out of his sense of joy with respect to the potential completion of a chain of events which had been set in motion so long ago. He asked: "Why the change of heart?"

She replied: "My heart has not changed. But the light within me has informed me that if I wish to serve That which makes such light possible, then, first, I should love human kind, and I can think of no better person to start with than you."

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