Let Forgotten Memories Unfurl by Musa Askari

What is the moment?

When buds turn to flower

When clouds release a shower

When winter releases from its heart spring

Do you ever wonder at such things? 

Have you ever wondered

Why you are here?

And cried a silent secret tear

Have you ever wondered

From where did you begin?

Which mother’s milk did you abandon never tasting? 

Even though you may be trapped and bound

By this world that has let you down

Where are those first footprints to be found? 

Look not for them

In your earliest childhood days of this world

Continue Beyond

Let forgotten memories unfurl.

It was in March 1993 I put together the words as above. I was in my early twenties. It was a time of continued inner expansion. Many things were becoming clear on the direction my life may take. I was not only reading Plotinus (The Enneads) but also hearing my father, Hasan Askari, talk about the great mystic-philosopher, considered the father of Neo-Platonism, who is Soul through and through. I returned again and again to my father’s book “Alone to Alone” which had been published a few years earlier and new meanings came to light. The expansion I refer to was centred about one word, “Soul”: that impartible, invisible, indivisible companion of our self, both one and many at the same time. 

I learned of Plotinus’s term for the Supreme, The One – The Good. I heard about his system which referred to “emanation”. That from The One, who is above all association, emanates The Intellectual Principle, from which comes The Universal Soul and then The Individual Soul. I heard about such terms as conjoint; association of Soul with Body, with Matter. One of the most beautiful things I recall, ever-fresh, was hearing Hasan speak of Plato; that it is not the Soul in Body, but rather it is the Body in Soul. This had a transforming effect upon my thinking, upon my spirituality. It resolved many issues on the relationship between Body and Soul. It opened new doors. And still we had not come yet to ourselves; all this was Soul entire, Soul un-embodied.

It is important I explain a little what I mean by “direction”. I do not mean any worldly direction of occupation or career, of planning one’s life academically or anything of that nature. “Direction” was for me an inner movement which would dictate the outer movements.  I was already a student of my father’s work for many years. The beauty about his manner of teaching lay in that it was never forced. It was simply presented. We engaged in discussion deeply, or I observed him in dialogue with others. I observed him all on his own. And despite many serious challenges in life I witnessed an unfailing dedication to both his work and his inner self-mastery, which was one and the same. It was at moments observing a great artist at work, sculpting, painting or reflecting. 

To see his face light up at the dawn of some new idea or unravelling of some mystery was for me like watching a sun rise above the horizon. The faint advancing light that ushers in the arrival of the actual Sunrise. Ideas used to dawn upon him wherever and whatever he was doing. Either in conversation-encounter with others or all alone sitting in silence. Observing him I was certain of one thing, his mind was never far from the remembrance and praise of God.  One of the greatest lessons I was taught by him was to seek the company of solitude. To seek out time for oneself during the course of the day, to think and reflect, to be still, to pray, to remember The Supreme. It was as if one could spend an entire life time in that silence. The days could have come and gone, the seasons passing as like rushing clouds overhead. The sun could have risen and set countless times, one would never have known. 

Falcon

I developed the habit early on of waking up and being alone in silence with solitude. It was at one such moment I reached for pen paper and the poem “let forgotten memories unfurl” came about. A thought came to me. I put down the first two lines and it went from there. Ideas, images and ideas behind those images were my torch bearers, they guided me and I followed. Within those moments of the night I was seeking some understanding of soul, something, anything. To move from the discursive to the intuitive and spiritual. To lift the words of my teacher from the page and carry them upon my head as an offering for my Soul to pluck me on flight to some deeper understanding. As like an eagle or falcon plucks some morsel of food not forgetting to return to the “Hand” that released it. Talking and hearing about Soul from Hasan I came to notice the world about me more, the physical world, nature for example.

I reflected on the simple beauty of nature and started contemplating another moment within nature. One moment and yet a multitude of moments. The moment when a bud decides to flower, clouds releasing their shower. It was not that I was seeking an exact temporal timeline, that was not the goal. The goal became to ponder and reflect. To imagine oneself just being present at the very moment one particular bud decided to begin its flowering. It was as if the act of observing and flowering were one act but in different forms. To imagine that which called forth the bud to flower was the same which called one to notice it. Symbolically, one of the ways a flowering bud may be understood is akin to our eyes opening from a deep sleep.

The beauty of a bud is further increased when its petals have opened fully, reaching for the sun much like our own physical eyes more beautiful once open and light hits the optic nerve. Can one bear witness to any physical eye being beautiful in the dark? Whilst closed the beauty of our eyes is concealed, but would we deny, even when closed, that the very “Idea” of an eye is a beautiful thing. An “Idea” of beauty by which other beauties are seen, a hierarchy of Beauty, of Ideal Forms, intangible and immaterial. Now we may invoke the adage, “the eyes are the windows to the Soul”. Sometimes both acts, flowering and observing, are mirrors and the original is out of sight, at others one is the mirror and the other is the original standing before it.  It all depends at which point within the hierarchy one is “standing” as Soul. 

There also comes a point to turn the arrow of inquiry from nature to oneself, from outer to inner. To ask deeply, with meaning, with tears, with a yearning like never before, “why am I here?” Again it was not any conclusive answer I was searching. I was not seeking to unveil some crystal ball and peer in to it becoming so disoriented whereby I lost sight of the very thing that brought me to ponder the question. The power was in the question itself. The question was the guide and that I tried to keep intact. 

In coming back to Soul, on this poem, another idea came to me. Namely, above our memory, a timeline from birth to the present moment. Above all the experiences, all relationships, above all these memories, tragic and joyous, above even our dreams, there is another memory. A more Ancient Memory, that of Soul. Embedded within that memory is a “Call”, a Command almost. A beckoning for the Soul to turn its gaze from looking down at what it has created, forgetting its priors and thus forgetting its own inner memory. A “Call” to become free of being infatuated by its own beauty and seek the home of that Light which shines within it. The Home of Beauty, that from which Beauty emanates.  To look up, as it were, to its Source. Within the Islamic tradition there is a beautiful way of recalling this memory when The Quran reminds, “We are of God and unto God we return”. In other words one’s Soul is from God and unto God it returns. Quoting Hasan Askari from his 1995 speech on Spiritual Humanism, “our journey ultimately is from soul to God. Pure is your soul, purer is your approach to God”. https://spiritualhuman.wordpress.com/speech-hasan-askari-spiritual-humanism/  

We already accept there is a memory in to which we are born. A memory we have no knowledge of as we are born. It is a memory presented to us as integral to our worldly identity, a pseudo-identity I would say, a garment, a covering.  Memory upon memory which over time distances us from a far more Ancient Memory within the Soul having the potential to distance us from one another. Namely, in general terms, our collective identities of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, culture, language and religion.  Within these collective memories there are indeed gems, hints, clues, great insights, much meaning. However, it depends on how such socio-historic memories are relayed to us. As complete and absolute or temporary and symbolic.  

If we can accept, by example of such collective identities, the principle of a “memory” before our knowing of it, before our birth, then perhaps we may begin to explore another Memory above the ones presented to us here through our individual-collective lives and histories. Through story and art, through encounter and co-presence. Through Soul! Upon meeting another let us pay attention to their story for who knows what buds are beginning to flower and what forgotten memories are beginning to unfurl for both the speaker and listener.  

Originally published in “The Beginning of Fearlessness” c/o Lee & Steven Hager 

Further reading: Plotinus, The Enneads (The Knowing Hypostases): “If the Soul is questioned as to the nature of that Intellectual Principle – the perfect and all-embracing, the primal self-knower – it has but to enter into that Principle, or to sink all its activity into that, and at once it shows itself to be in effective possession of those priors whose memory it never lost: “

“Journey of Pearls” by Musa Askari

JOURNEY OF PEARLS by Musa Askari

Listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rysa/2011/06/14/art-and-ascension 

You tell me your story. I will tell you mine and somewhere along that road of sharing, perhaps we may encounter one another more deeply than otherwise would have been possible. Seeing and hearing in our testimonies some glimpse of that which unites us. That which beckoned us here now to be before one another.  Long before we met and spoke of our lives something has always been running through all our lives, an invisible thread of connection. What could be more invisible than Life itself, Than Soul? Whose presence, coming and going is outside of all our hands. 

As those beautiful pearl threaders sitting in silence, their act of fashioning a pearl necklace itself a meditation. As they reach for each pearl it represents a life, yours and mine, and so the time passes having placed one pearl beside each other they lay it before them and the pearls start to sing and vibrate. Listen! For now we can hear their story of how they were plucked from the depths of the oceans, carried upon boats and brought to shore. Taken from “eternal rest” they journey now in “perpetual motion”. Traded and sold, bartered and exchanged passing from hand to hand, homeless, placeless, until they arrive in the midst of the Master Pearl Necklace Maker. Tucked away in some side street of some busy town. Waiting as they do for that “moment” when the hand from above reaches in to the bag in which they have travelled and plucks them again and adds them to the already threaded pearls.  

Listen more intently and one can hear how they tell us of their beauty and sparkle, that inner light which never left them even in the dark. They have a message for us, that despite the wear and tear of life, of being discarded, disowned, moved from place to place as some object to posses, that despite all this sheer negligence they have kept themselves intact. Their beauty unaffected, untainted, as pure as when they were created. Pearls of Wisdom. For only one reason they came in to this world, retained their beauty, so that one day a craftsman par excellence may reach for them and make of them a greater thing of beauty never imagined. Beauty upon Beauty. It is for this union they waited uncomplaining.  

To read one’s story aloud either to oneself or to another is transforming. A moment of deep encounter, of healing. How many stories waiting not only to be told but also heard.  For hearing in the echo of the words from another one somehow hears another voice, another story, a long forgotten memory perhaps. Of what we once were and may be again.  We perhaps are affected deeply by certain stories for in their telling we hear our own. Either a consistent narrative or a flash or two where two paths cross. Where two lives intersect one another. Should one be able to recognise those instances consider it a gift between friends. 

For my part I was and remain deeply grateful for in the form of one life, in the life of one man I am able to say wholeheartedly I found a friend, teacher, guide who happened to be my father also. I refer to Syed Hasan Askari. 

His life for me was more than socio-historic. More than the worldly identity of a husband, father and scholar. More than simply the sum of all the inter personal actions taken by a man who found himself present in a given social ethical context. More than the value judgements society may make on any life. I saw another life beneath the layer of the outer life. I heard another story in his story. 

To hear someone’s story is also to befriend them. True friendship for me knows no boundaries of race, culture, nation, religion, a believer or not (in the conventional sense) or a seeker. Friendship reaches across all such boundaries and leaps forward, should we allow it, to another mode all together.

As I wrote in my tribute to my late father after his passing; “friendship in the sense of two becoming one. As like two hands joining together in prayer, whatever mode that prayer happens to take. You brought forward your hand, he brought forward his and together a prayer of friendship was offered up to the unseen “Friend” present in all.”  

I turned to Hasan one night in hospital, a few days before his passing, and asked him by narrating a story, “Why don’t we, right now, go back in time to that profound first self awakening moment in the history of all humanity? The unknown and unrecorded moment in history. Let us imagine a man walking along a country road, returning to his dwelling at sunset all alone. As he takes one step after another, for some unknown reason, he becomes more and more aware of his voluntary act of walking. He becomes self-conscious of his body. His hands, his feet his clothes. He asks himself would these clothes have movement if they were not draped around his body? As he finishes asking himself this question he stops all of a sudden. He notices the world around him. The faint contour of the moon in the sky, the stars, the trees swaying in the wind. He asks himself if his body is also a garment? He had encountered his Soul. That he was something more than a body. Later in the centuries that followed a name would be given in different languages to this “something more”. It would come to be known as Attma, Soul, Psyche, Ruh. We do not say this person, a man or woman was of this religion or that. It was simply a person walking along a path looking about their world and asking questions.” Hasan looked directly at me and said with a beaming and tearful smile, “Ahh, That is it. To re-discover again and again, everyday, we are….Soul-Beings!”  

(Listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rysa/2011/06/14/art-and-ascension “Read Your Stories Aloud”. Musa Askari reads this reflection  in conversation with blogtalkradio Host/Artist/Writer Nancy Wait & fellow guest Artist/Therapist/Teacher Louise Oliver)