Farid UD Din Attars Conference of the Birds

The bird, representing a superior state in the hierarchy of being, a totem, is a paradigm for spiritual realization, as attested to in the drawings of birds as soul-bearers in the Lascaux caves; and as mystical soul-forces in Farid ud-din Attar's "The Conference of the Birds". That the bird should have chosen the knee (a part of the body which plays a role in several episodes in The Kalevala ) as its nesting place is significant. A connecting link between the thigh and the lower part of the leg, the knee enables walking, ambulating--the carrying out of a willed idea. Insofar as the Virgin of the Air is concerned, the knee makes it possible for her to realize her potential, to nurture a new element both passively and actively.

Meanwhile, the eggs take on warmth. Concomitantly, the Virgin of the Air suddenly feels herself burning, her "sinews" melting, "her skin scorched" (p. 6). The fire of creation has heightened the intensity of her emotions. Love begins flaming within her; movement takes on energy. Oneness has vanished and is giving way to multiplicity, diversity--the future earthborn state. The birth process in general may be regarded as an ordeal by fire: Siva created the world with fire; Brahma was identified with fire; the phoenix is reborn from its ashes; the Holy Ghost appeared to the apostles as flames ( Acts 2:3-4). Since shamans experience the flame of mystical heat during their moments of magical ecstasy, it is not surprising that the Virgin of the Air should also feel burning sensations. As life grows within her, she is involved in the transformatory process: eggs turning into earth/matter. While she continues to swim in the vast expanses of water, she fashions coasts, bays, reefs, islands, and mountains, giving birth, so to speak, to myriad facets in the form of earthly configurations.

Humankind has not yet come into existence; it remains an illusion, a spiritual force buried deeply within the belly of the Virgin of the Air. For another thirty summers and thirty winters, the gestation period will pursue its course. The Virgin of the Air swims here and there, always hoping that the treasure contained within her will emerge. Not until the fascine sum ends, however, not until the fruit of the womb grows sufficiently weary of an inner existence, will it emerge from the dark waters of cosmic existence.

The author presents the character, Sheikh Sam' an, as a "the first man of his time." He is presented as a man who lives for his faith, and it is his faith that defines him. "For fifty years...he kept Mecca's holy place...fifty times had made the pilgrimage...observed all sacred laws", this was the definition of Sheikh Sam' an. He was known for his religious observation gaining him four- hundred pupils. The sheikh is the central character in the story because he embodies the elements of love. The sheikh renounces the Self in the name of love in the story. In order to reveal the meaning of a dream, the sheik goes to Rome. Upon his arrival he instantly falls in love with a Christian girl, causing him to 'throw away' his Self. It begins when he meets the Christian and he forgets who he is, Attar states, "He did not know himself...Love sacked his heart"(p.58). He becomes so consumed that he daily actions cannot be recognized. He does not take care of himself, he "smears his locks with filth and dust..." and he becomes "waste it pale and weak" (p.60&63). ...

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