The Food of Paradiseadmin | November 1, 2010
YUNUS, the son of Adam, decided one day not only to cast his life in the balance of fate, but to seek the means and reason of the provision of goods for man.
‘I am’, he said to himself, ‘a man. As such I get a portion of the world’s goods, every day. This portion comes to me by my own efforts, coupled with the efforts of others. By simplifying this process, I shall find the means whereby sustenance comes to mankind, and learn something about how and why.
I shall therefore adopt the religious way, which exhorts man to rely upon almighty God for his sustenance. Rather than live in the world of confusion, where food and other things come apparently through society, I shall throw myself upon the direct support of the Power which rules over all. The beggar depends upon intermediaries: charitable men and women, who are subject to secondary impulses. They give goods or money because they have been trained to do so. I shall accept no such indirect contributions.’
So saying, he walked into the countryside, throwing himself upon the support of invisible forces with the same resolution with which he had accepted the support of visible ones, when he had been a teacher in a school.
He fell asleep, certain that Allah would take complete care of his interests, just as the birds and beasts were catered for in their own realm.
At dawn the bird chorus awakened him, and the son of Adam lay still at first, waiting for his sustenance to appear. In spite of his reliance upon the invisible force and his confidence that he would
be able to understand it when it started its operations in the field into which he had thrown himself, he soon realized that speculative thinking alone would not greatly help him in this unusual field.
He was lying at the riverside, and spent the whole day observing nature, peering at the fish in the waters, saying his prayers. From time to time rich and powerful men passed by, accompanied by glitteringly accoutred outriders on the finest horses, harness-bells jingling imperiously to signal their absolute right of way, who merely shouted a salutation at the sight of his venerable turban. Parties of pilgrims paused and chewed dry bread and dried cheese, serving only to sharpen his appetite for the humblest food.
‘It is but a test, and all will soon be well,’ thought Yunus, as he said his fifth prayer of the day and wrapped himself in contemplation after the manner taught him by a dervish of great perceptive attainments. Another night passed.
As Yunus sat staring at the sun’s broken lights reflected in the mighty Tigris, five hours after dawn on the second day, something bobbing in the reeds caught his eye. This was a packet, enclosed in
leaves and bound around with palm-fibre. Yunus, the son of Adam, waded into the river and possessed himself of the unfamiliar cargo. It weighed about three-quarters of a pound. As he unwound the
fibre a delicious smell assailed his nostrils. He was the owner of a quantity of the halwa of Baghdad. This halwa, composed of almond paste, rosewater, honey and nuts and other precious elements, was both prized for its taste and esteemed as a health-giving food.
Harem beauties nibbled it because of its flavour; warriors carried it on campaigns because of its sustaining power. It was used to treat a hundred ailments.
‘My belief is vindicated!’ exclaimed Yunus. ‘And now for the test. If a similar quantity of halwa, or the equivalent, comes to me upon the waters daily or at other intervals, I shall know the means ordained
by providence for my sustenance, and will then only have to use my intelligence to seek the source.’
For the next three days, at exactly the same hour, a packet of halwa floated into Yunus’ hands.
This, he decided, was a discovery of the first magnitude. Simplify your circumstances and Nature continued to operate in a roughly similar way. This alone was a discovery which he almost felt impelled to share with the world. For has it not been said: ‘When you know, you must teach’? But then he realized that he did not know:he only experienced. The obvious next step was to follow the halwa’s
course upstream until he arrived at the source. He would then understand not only its origin, but the means whereby it was set aside for his explicit use.
For many days Yunus followed the course of the stream. Each day with the same regularity but at a time correspondingly earlier, the halwa appeared, and he ate it.
Eventually Yunus saw that the river, instead of narrowing as one might expect at the upper part, had widened considerably. In the middle of a broad expanse of water there was a fertile island. On this island stood a mighty and yet beautiful castle. It was from here, he determined, that the food of paradise originated.
As he was considering his next step, Yunus saw that a tall and unkempt dervish, with the matted hair of a hermit and a cloak of multicoloured patches, stood before him.
‘Peace, Baba, Father,’ he said.
‘Ishq, Hoo!’ shouted the hermit. ‘And what is your business here?’
‘I am following a sacred quest,’ explained the son of Adam, ‘and must in my search reach yonder castle. Have you perhaps an idea how this might be accomplished?’
‘As you seem to know nothing about the castle, in spite of having a special interest in it,’ answered the hermit, ‘I will tell you about it.
‘Firstly, the daughter of a king lives there, imprisoned and in exile, attended by numerous beautiful servitors, it is true, but constrained nevertheless. She is unable to escape because the man who captured her and placed her there, because she would not marry him, has erected formidable and inexplicable barriers, invisible to the ordinary eye. You would have to overcome them to enter the
castle and find your goal.’
‘How can you help me?’
I am on the point of starting on a special journey of dedication. Here, however, is a word and exercise, the Wazifa, which will, if you are worthy, help to summon the invisible powers of the benevolent Jinns, the creatures of fire, who alone can combat the magical forces which hold the castle locked. Upon you peace.’ And he wandered away, after repeating strange sounds and moving with a dexterity and agility truly wonderful in a man of his venerable appearance.
Yunus sat for days practising his Wazifa and watching for the appearance of the halwa. Then, one evening as he looked at the setting sun shining upon a turret of the castle, he saw a strange sight. There, shimmering with unearthly beauty, stood a maiden,who must of course be the princess. She stood for an instant looking into the sun, and then dropped into the waves which lapped far beneath her on to the castle rocks—a packet of halwa. Here, then, was the immediate source of his bounty.
The source of the Food of Paradise!’ cried Yunus. Now he was almost on the very threshold of truth. Sooner or later the Commander of the Jinns, whom through his dervish Wazifa he was calling, must come, and would enable him to reach the castle, the princess, and the truth.
No sooner had these thoughts passed through his mind than he found himself carried away through the skies to what seemed to be an ethereal realm, filled with houses of breathtaking beauty. He entered one, and there stood a creature like a man, who was not a man: young in appearance, yet wise and in some way ageless. ‘I’, said this vision, ‘am the Commander of the Jinns, and I have had thee carried here in answer to thy pleading and the use of those Great Names which were supplied to thee by the Great Dervish.
What can I do for thee?’
‘O mighty Commander of all the Jinns,’ trembled Yunus, ‘I am a Seeker of the Truth, and the answer to it is only to be found by me in the enchanted castle near which I was standing when you called me here. Give me, I pray, the power to enter this castle and talk to the imprisoned princess.’
‘So shall it be!’ exclaimed the Commander. ‘But be warned, first of all, that a man gets an answer to his questions in accordance with his fitness to understand and his own preparation.’
‘Truth is truth,’ said Yunus, ‘and I will have it, no matter what it may be. Grant me this boon.’
Soon he was speeding back in a decorporealized form (by the magic of the Jinn) accompanied by a small band of Jinni servitors, charged by their Commander to use their special skills to aid this
human being in his quest. In his hand Yunus grasped a special mirror-stone which the Jinn chief had instructed him to turn towards the castle to be able to see the hidden defences.
Through this stone the son of Adam soon found that the castle was protected from assault by a row of giants, invisible but terrible, who smote anyone who approached. Those of the Jinns who were proficient at this task cleared them away. Next he found that there was something like an invisible web or net which hung all around the castle. This, too, was destroyed by the Jinns who flew and who
had the special cunning needed to break the net. Finally there was an invisible mass as of stone, which, without making an impression, filled the space between the castle and the river bank. This was overthrown by the skills of the Jinns, who made their salutations and flew fast as light, to their abode.
Yunus looked and saw that a bridge, by its own power, had emerged from the river-bed, and he was able to walk dry shod into the very castle. A soldier at the gate took him immediately to the princess, who was more beautiful even than she had appeared at first.
‘We are grateful to you for your services in destroying the defences which made this prison secure,’ said the lady. ‘And I may now return to my father and want only to reward thee for thy sufferings. Speak, name it, and it shall be given to thee.’
‘Incomparable pearl,’ said Yunus, ‘there is only one thing which I seek, and that is truth. As it is the duty of all who have truth to give it to those who can benefit from it, I adjure you, Highness, to
give me the truth which is my need.’
‘Speak, and such truth as it is possible to give will freely be thine.’
‘Very well, your Highness. How, and by what order, is the Food
of Paradise, the wonderful halwa which you throw down every day
for me, ordained to be deposited thus?’
‘Yunus, son of Adam,’ exclaimed the princess, ‘the halwa, as you call it, I throw down each day because it is in fact the residue of the cosmetic materials with which I rub myself every day after my bath of asses’ milk.’
‘I have at last learned’, said Yunus, ‘that the understanding of a man is conditional upon his capacity to understand. For you, the remains of your daily toilet. For me, the Food of Paradise.’
Only a very few Sufi tales, according to Halqavi (who is the author of The Food of Paradise’) can be read by anyone at any time and still affect the ‘Inner consciousness’ constructively.
‘Almost all others’, he says, ‘depend upon where, when and how they are studied. Thus most people will find in them only what they expect to find: entertainment, puzzlement, allegory.’
Yunus, son of Adam, was a Syrian, and died in 1670. He had remarkable healing powers and was an inventor.