~by Tawwaba, May 2016 Full Moon~
Wali Ali and I call these research ventures, when he has a subject or topic for which he needs more details, background, or other information, "rabbit holes."
The first avenue I take is to search the online archives. This often brings more threads to pursue. With the intention of learning what Murshid was up to in 1930, I recently was drawn down a side warren in the rabbit hole. Sometimes I can't resist following these trails, even if what I discover isn't going to be included in the book.
In 1930, Murshid crossed the country stopping in Cleveland Ohio where he had family and perhaps other contacts. He went on to New York City where he spent time in the New York Zen Center and the Roerich Museum, but that is all another story! In Cleveland he visited the White Memorial Library, perusing various esoteric volumes. He came across a book in French which he consistently referred to as "Efleki's Lives of the Adepts." In correspondence and writings in his last decade, he refers back to this volume which he had read thirty and more years previously.
A few of these hits indicate what most interested him about this text.
From a letter to the Town Planners of Hyderabad India, August 24, 1970:
"There is very little difference in my inner life from the tales of Efleki’s Lives of the Adepts concerning the spiritual leaders of the Mevlevi School, founded by Jelal-ud-din Rumi."
In a letter to Seyyed Hosein Nasr, November 16, 1970:
"In the year 1930 I visited the White Memorial Library in Cleveland, Ohio, and there found The Lives of the Adapts by Efleki. In those days I could read French and was amazed to find I had had all kinds of inner experiences practically identical with those related in this voluminous work."
And a letter to Paul Reps March 27, 1963
"When I was in Cleveland in 1930, I read The Lives of the Adepts by Efleki in French. It made me very lonely indeed because these Sufi saints had had experiences to which my own were akin and there was nobody to talk to about them. … It is only now that a descendant of Jelal-ud-din Rumi has come here that I could really open up.
My interest is always piqued when I learn of a particular text that influenced Murshid as indicated by his references to it through the years. I seek it out, in online digital archives and via used book sellers and have been collecting whatever editions I can find.
Efleki didn't bring up any hits on Google.
"The Lives of the Adepts" turns up a different book, about alchemystical hermetic philosophers. Interesting, I could get distracted! ~ but not Murshid's book.
Next I looked up Rumi on Wikipedia to see if there was any reference to this text since Murshid referenced him in that first quote.
BINGO: Efleki = Aflaki
"A hagiographical account of him is described in Shams ud-Din Ahmad Aflāki's Manāqib ul-Ārifīn (written between 1318 and 1353). This hagiographical account of his biography needs to be treated with care as it contains both legends and facts about Rumi." Wikipedia listing for Rumi
hag·i·og·ra·phy n.pl.hag·i·og·ra·phies (hăg′ē-ŏg′rə-fē, hā′jē-)
1. a. The writing of the lives of saints.
b. A biography of a saint.
2. a. The writing of an admiring or idealized biography.
b. An admiring or idealized biography.
(The Aflaki work is considered the 2B. Wali Ali notes that we are working on the first, not second kind of hagiography. And yet amazing things do happen in relation to spiritually realized beings and reports should not be lightly dismissed.)
Pursuing these breadcrumbs, Aflaki and Manaqib ul-Arifin, I began to find various editions and translations. The best known translation into English was an abridged version by a British man, James Redhouse, in 1881. This can be found online: http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/mes/ It was later adapted by Idries Shah.
Many of the stories I have heard over the years about Rumi and Shems come from this source.
Yet I still wasn't finding this French translation that Murshid read in Cleveland.
And then I realized what had been tickling the back of my mind since seeing that Efleki is Aflaki. (Avoiding the tickling of the AFLAC ad!) I remembered a book called The Whirling Ecstasy, that has been floating around in Sufi circles.
It was originally published in 1954, in Mexico, in English, by a Rodney Collin-Smith, student of Ouspensky.
The introduction of this slim volume of excerpts reads, "…This booklet is a selection from The Lives of the Gnostics by Aflaki, disciple of [Rumi]'s grandson, written between 1318 and 1335. It was translated into French by C. Huart under the title 'Les Saintes des Derviches Tourneurs' (Paris 1918-22)."
The mystery is solved! And it brings us back close to home.
This is the same text that I had seen, first published in 1972 by Prophecy Press, Hassan Herz's publication house which printed Murshid's works, including The Jerusalem Trilogy. Hassan confirmed to me that the French translation (from the original Turkish) was a book that Murshid had talked about. Hassan found this translation from the French in the public domain and printed with the first cover and illustrations by Fatima. The cover I was familiar with is shown here.
A downloadable version: http://holybooks.lichtenbergpress.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Whirling-Ecstasy.pdf? 596349
Using the French translator's name and this French title, I found an online version of this text. I can read it to some extent with my rough French, and I LOVE reading the same words Murshid read, in a facsimile of the same typeface, etc.
This story is just one of many wonderful adventures in research that have delighted me as I serve this biography project.
With love and appreciation to all who support us with green and loving energy.