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Moved by "Under This Azure Heavens"

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


Being moved deeply by the article written by Mali Mostoufi under the heading Under This Azure Heavens... posted at Payvand recently, I wrote her this now revised version which I now like to share with others, as the subjects brought about in Ms. Mostoufi’s article can be considered among vital and long-lasting debates in the past 1400 years of Persian History. However, I am keeping the informal air of this writing and keep it in the way as it was addressed to the author.


Identifying myself with one of those dreamers mentioned in your article, with even that negative intonation felt in your words and counting myself as one of them on one hand, and on the other hand as an individual searching for a vision of a better world, being greatly discouraged and disappointed first with our mysticism, with Molavi (Rumi) and Hafez as its most loved and well-known representatives with whom we Persians grow up and with the world-mysticism on the whole and later discouraged and disappointed as much with Communism and Western world view including their democracy, medicine and sciences, and since at present I also identify myself with one of those whom you describe in your article in the following way

“…Nowadays the contemporary dreamers mix their ideologies with pseudo-sciences as "scientific facts." But they deceive themselves and, unfortunately they fool some individuals by such 'new old discoveries!...'


And because I wish to prevent if possible getting perhaps discouraged and disappointed once again in my life and also because I do not wish to “deceive” and “fool” myself, using your words above, I would like to ask you the following questions which have been my questions for a long time too, hoping to perhaps finally find a more satisfactory answer for them with your help.


Using your description and your way of putting it my first question is “Why do we Persians think that “Our History lied to us for more than and "After One Thousand and Four Hundred Years"?”


Putting it in another way: “Why do we think that life was better before the downfall of Sassanians and the rise of Islamic Rule in Persia?”


True, it was the Islamic Conquest that brought about the downfall of one of the greatest Empires and subsequently civilizations of the world. In fact, the present United State can be regarded as modern contemporary substantiation of the Cyrus’ socio-political ‘dream’ according to the remaining evidences that have reached us, that is a democratic federation based on human rights laid down some three millennia before by the above Persian King.


Going back to the above question, why do we Persians continue blaming Islam for the impotence of Sassanians? Weren’t Sassanians the first ruling regime who violated the human rights including freedom of ‘faith’ laid down by Cyrus by killing and persecuting the first Painter- Prophet of the world Mani and then the first “Communist – Feminist” (of course in the primitive sense) philosopher and activist of the world Mazdak? Weren’t those Sassanian as brutal in suppressing and persecuting the opposition as their defeaters Moslem Arabs?


It is true that from one perspective we may ‘blame’ all religions as being the chief responsible cause for almost all conflicts, wars, discriminations, absurd inhuman divisions that we have witnessed throughout the world past history. I would like to add Western scientific outlook and communism and all ideologies and ‘isms’ to the same category and call it “My –way- is- better- than- your- way -outlook.”


You talk about execution of Kasravi, a clergy himself, by the verdict (fatva) of a minor clergy. But before Kasravi we had Sohrvardi, Ain-ol-Ghozat Hamedani and Halaaj, just enumerating the most well-known of them,  executed for the same ‘excuse’ of blasphemy also by some minor or major clergies of their times. Similarly quoting the book Davinci Code, 5 million people mostly women, were executed by the Christian Church during the Middle Ages for similar reasons.


You made this point by quoting Shojaedin Shafa. Then quoting Erric From you speak of false dreams, and you warn your readers to be aware of those who “lecture us about 'how to be happy' by "Dream Prescriptions" or as an American saying goes, "By the pie in the sky..."


When we speak of false dreams, it automatically implies that there are and should be ‘genuine dreams’ as well. And you categorize the world’s mystics, if not that openly as false dreamers, but definitely as “tranquilizers,’ who put not only us Easterners into sleep, but their followers that you call Orientalists in the West.


Now my second question is how can we distinguish between false and true dreams and dreamers?


Then in another part of your article you say:

“From almost Fourteen Century AD while the Europeans, as known as Westerners, were rapidly moving ahead, going through several wars and revolutions, going through the Industrial  Revolutions and many social, economical and political changes; but we in the East stayed in 'bed' with our mystics, Attars, Rumis and Buddhas, etc….”


Is this a clue to one possible answer to the above question that what Europeans and Westerners did during these past fourteen centuries should be taken as signs and hints to how non-dreamers or ‘genuine’ dreamers should think, do and be?


In the above quotation from your article you ‘blame’ us Easterners for staying in “bed” with our mystics, Attars, Rumis and Buddhas, while in another part of your article you say:


“Throughout the Persian history, the powerful religious demagogues took full advantage of the classical works of our past visionary poets and writers. They used the beauty of those poems, proses and stories as tools to prove the 'truth' in 'sacred books.'  Whoever dared to criticize those books, believe me, ended up into a fate far worse than Salman Rushdi-- he was slaughtered to pieces!...”


Please, help, I am totally confused now. Tell me who were “those past visionary Persian poets and writers that the powerful religious demagogues took full advantage of?” Weren’t they the same people ‘who helped us to stay in bed and kept us in the “sleeping conditions” of existence, while the West was ‘wide awake’ planning how to “imitate” the East to conquest the world before it ‘fell into its ever then sleeping conditions’ for which its ‘mystical leaders’ should be blamed?


 In my knowledge I can’t think of any past visionary Persian poets other than those you have mentioned in your beautifully written poetical article, that is, Rumis, Attars, Hafez. This makes it extremely difficult for me to decide whether after all I should consider these Eastern poets, mystics, ‘genuine dreamers’, ‘visionary’ or ‘false dreamers’, ‘analgesic’ and ‘tranquilizers’ and thus one of the major causes for our past 1400 years of sleep, here in Persia and Post-Buddhist India, China, Japan and all other ‘third world’ countries where Buddhism and its different orders including Zen have been their main religions and schools of mysticism? You even degrade those Westerns (that would include many of their leading Quantum Physicists) who disappointed with Western ‘philosophies, ideologies, sciences’ appealed to the East.


Continuing reading your article I was wondering whether after all your radical criticisms of Easterners and softer criticisms of the Westerners, you would give us some alternative or like the overwhelming majority of ‘critics’ you would leave us in the air or as confused and bewildered as before.


So it was a kind of relief when I reached this part of your article in which you talk about your own belief which I like to call a dream also. You say:


“I never asked my old man, (meaning your father) "Why did you, or 'God' or whatever that bring us to this world, or to this existence" or "on this earth?" Like him and all the other thinking human beings, I had no answers to these questions, and I still don't. But I believed then, and still do now that between this "coming" (existence) and that "going" (death) all of us have the urge to live, and to live a better life for ourselves and make our world a better place for our future generations.


I call your belief “to live a better life for ourselves and make our world a better place for our future generations” a dream, definitely shared by all those past ‘visionaries’ whether poets such as Rumi and Hafez, or ‘philosophers’ such as Buddha or philosopher-writers such as Socrates and Nietzsche, mystics such as Attars, Halaajs and Sohrvardis, religious reformers such as Luther and Kasravi and many true past and present scientists, such as Pauli and many other ‘ordinary beings of non-sheep type.’


And if I am right to think that you finish your article by quoting the verse from Hafez: Under this azure heavens, I admire the resoluteness of the
one who, Is free from whatever takes the color of attachment”
like a ‘what to do?’ formula for your readers, then I can conclude this response to your article which really acted like a mirror to show my own ‘prejudices, superficial evaluations, judgments’ (such as to divide Persian history into Pre-Islamic and thus ‘good,’ or the work of ‘genuine dreamers’ and Post-Islamic and thus ‘bad’ or the work of false dreamers, or mystics leading to our present “backwardness” ), and sharing your dream and hoping that “between this "coming" (existence) and that "going" (death) of mine”, I come to think that your ‘what to do’ formula adopted from the above verse of Hafez, as the first step to ‘free (ourselves) from whatever takes the color of attachment” in the hope of moving towards more ‘impartial, objective’ criticism of our past.


For it seems this is the only way that we might be able to free ourselves from the world – dominant- outlook I mentioned above and described as “my way is better than your way.’  I really can not understand how we can blame others for doing the things that we do ourselves. Sorry to say that what I hear from your ‘poetic’ article is the same that I read and hear from our contemporary religious ruling authorities here every day. “Condemn, Kill, Imprison whoever thinks, says, does otherwise.”


Haven’t we had enough of this approach? Aren’t we tired of repeating the same old historical pattern?


When do we want to wake up and see ourselves as openly and critically as we see our “opponents” or those “who do not share our views?”


Don’t you think we should really learn from Nelson Mandela in respect to our ‘oppressors’, ‘persecutors’, ‘defeaters’ if we wish to come out of the long lasting repeated habit of “treating the enemies as they treated us.”


I don’t know whether it is our ‘attachments’ that lead to ‘habits’ or vice versa, but habits are dangerous as you described beautifully in your article which let me end these lines by repeating it with one final additional comment. You write:


“Habits, when repeated for centuries, turn into chronic addictions. We became so used to 'our goal-keepers' that we, century by century, fell in love with 'them' and accepted and drank whatever poison they fed us. We even got drunk and slept longer and longer!...”


Let us then truly wake up and make a truly impartial judgment about our own personal ‘world-views’ and check and see if they are not essentially the same as those ‘world-views’ that we like to criticize.


What frightens me to the bone is when I see so much hatred and anger and accusation and blame in ‘sensitive, loving people like you’ - mainly because then I feel it appears that there is no way out of this ‘hellish’ world we have created for ourselves ever since the dawn of civilization on this beautiful unique planet of our solar system.


I would be glad if anybody would answer the above questions that I first put before Ms. Mali Mostoufi?


... Payvand News - 10/27/05 ... --

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