Mystic Poetry

Chapter from "Islam to Secular Humanism"


Mystic poetry has a unique position in the family of world literature because focuses on:

      *         internal rather than external realities,

      *         inner rather than outer truth,

      *         metaphysical rather than physical journeys, and

      *         spiritual  rather than materialistic worlds.


Mystic poets accept the ultimate challenge of describing the indescribable, giving form to the formless. They ask themselves: 

How do we talk about the world

            where sounds turn mute?

How do we write about a world

            where words lose all of their meanings?

How do we discuss a world

            that transcends every logic?

How do we describe a world

            that has no boundaries?

How do we conceptualize a world

that defies any form?

How do we understand a world

       that is beyond words and sounds

      and colours and space and time

     and logic and.......?  

and answer it in the words of Tagores,

  “I dive down into the depths of the ocean of forms, hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless.” 

(Ref. 1)

Mystic poets are those enlightened beings who have personal encounters with the spiritual world and have touched the borders of known with the unknown, human with the divine, personal with the cosmic. They share with us that their experiences are intimate encounters with a world, which is nameless, formless, timeless and pathless.

“No miseries befall one who does not cling to name and form.” ~ Buddha (Ref. 2)

“Sufiism is truth without form.”  ~ Ibn-e-Jalali (Ref. 3)       

“Pass from time and place to timelessness and placelessness to other worlds. There is our origin.” ~ Samarqandi Amini (Ref. 3)


“Truth is pathless land.” ~ Krishnamurti (Ref. 4)







Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on 11 May, 1895, in Madanapalle, India

 When mystic poets express themselves in poetry they are more concerned about sharing their spiritual experiences, mystical encounters and existential truths and less preoccupied with the technique, form and language of their presentation. They are quite aware that they are not trying to impress their readers with scholarship; they are trying to help them open their inner eyes which will get in touch with their own personal truths.

When we study mystic poetry created throughout the world over the centuries, we come across certain master symbols that have a universal value because they are created from the body of human experience.

The first master symbol we come across is water. Water is one of the most significant ingredients of human existence. It not only gives birth to life, it also sustains it. Most of the human body is made of water. When water takes the form of an ocean, it becomes deep and mysterious and only the daring ones have the courage to descend into its depths. Mystics are the ones who risk going to the bottom of the ocean of life to come back with pearls of wisdom and tranquility.

Mystic poets see a human being, human self and human consciousness as a drop of water and the eternal truth and cosmic consciousness as an ocean. They claim that an ordinary man can see drops of water in an ocean but one needs special awareness and consciousness to see an ocean in a drop of water.

            Kabir Das said,

             A drop

            is merged

            into the ocean

            that everyone


            but how

            the ocean

            is contained

            in the drop

            that, O my friend

            only a rare man

            can comprehend.” (Ref. 5)

       Saint Kabir 1398 A.D - 1448 A.D

He is one of the medieval Indian saints of Bhakti and Sufi movement whose compositions figure in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Kabir lived in the fifteenth Century

after Christ, which was a time of great political upheaval in India. As is true of many contemporary religious teachers, very little reliable information concerning Kabir's life is available, though there is no dearth of legend gathering around him. 


The second master symbol we come across in mystic poetry is fire. Mystic poets feel that traveling on the spiritual path is like jumping into the fire of love. If one is honest and sincere, fire transforms into a rose garden and the traveler embraces the ultimate truth; but if the traveler is an amateur and is just curious about the spiritual path then he can easily get burnt.

Rumi said,

Love is that flame that

when it is kindled

burns everything away

God only remains.” (Ref. 6)

The name Jalaluddin Rumi stands for Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite. Rumi is one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind. Rumi was born in Balkh (Afghanistan) in 1207


       Kabir Das shared,

       This seeking

O friend

is a stupendous task,         

a raging fire

it is.

Jump in

if you wish

to be baked

but if you are

merely curious

this fire

would destroy you.” (Ref. 5)

Playing with fire can be seen as adventure but also a dangerous phenomenon. Only those who have confidence in themselves and in their love can dare to go close to it. But once mystics embrace the flame then they are sure that they will be cleansed from all those impurities that are hindrances in their spiritual journey. Fire purifies things not only in our day-to-day lives but also our souls, in our spiritual lives.


William Blake wrote,

           Unless the eye catch fire

            the God will not be seen

            unless the ear catch fire

            the God will not be heard

            unless the tongue catch fire

            the God will not be named

            unless the heart catch fire

            the God will not be loved

            unless the mind catch fire

    the God will not be known”


William Blake

Poet, printmaker, visionary, the British artist William Blake (1757-1827) made work that is both profoundly personal and universal. William Blake, the son of a draper from Westminster, was born on 28th November, 1757. At the age of eleven Blake entered Par's Drawing School in the strand. Three years later he was indentured as an apprentice to James Basire, engraver to the Royal Society of Antiquaries. After marrying Catherine Boucher on 18th August 1782, Blake became a freelance engraver. His main employer was the radical bookseller, Joseph Johnson, and publisher of works by Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Johnson, who been involved in establishing London's first Unitarian Chapel in 1774, also influenced Blake's religious views. 

The third master symbol we come across in mystic poetry is light. Mystic poets highlight that after traveling in the dark alleys of one’s soul and on convoluted paths of the spiritual labyrinth, human beings reach a stage where they discover their inner light.

        Kabir Das

       “I shall make

my body into

a clay-lamp,

my soul, its wick

and my blood oil

ah, the light

of this lamp

would reveal

the face

of my beloved

to me.”

(Ref. 5)

In this journey the traveler has to consume himself to discover light and be enlightened.

Baba Farid-ad-din Attar wrote,

"The true lover finds the light only if,

like the candle

he is his own fuel 

consuming himself." (Ref. 7)


"First you go towards the light

next you are in the light

Then you are the light." (Ref. 4)


Baba Farid was born in the
city of Kothiwal, near Dipalpur in Punjab.


Madhu Lal Hussain said,

"Be never engaged at all

in arguments so long

but ponder over your end

so says Hussain Faqir." (Ref. 7) 

Dhamal at the urus of Madhu Lal Hussain (R.A) Lahore

Punjabi Poetry of Hussain