"Gone soon Piepowder's moss-weed court
Round which upholstered Lizards sold
Visions to their leaden flock
Of rainbows' ends and gold."
In the "moss-weed" of "Piepowder's court" we again see the idea of a place,
like Rupert's "rain tree shaded lawn", that is free from the light of scrutiny.
"Sacred" religious tenets, like the constructs of the ego, are not to be
questioned. "Moss-weed" also suggests stagnation ("A rolling stone gathers no
moss."). Egos and religions both tend to be unmoving. In religions, "visions"
are "sold" by priests ("upholstered Lizards") rather than experienced directly
by the individual.
"The vulgar reverence these follies because they firmly believe what the
Prophets have said, although these visionaries among the Hebrews, were the same
as the augurs and the
diviners among the pagans. They consult the Bible as if
God or nature was therein expounded to them in a special manner . . .,"
"Courtship solely of his word"
". . . however this book is only a rhapsody of
fragments, gathered at various times, selected by several persons, and given to
the people according to the
fancy of the Robbins, who did not publish them until after approving some, and
rejecting others, and seeing if
they were conformable or opposed to the Law of Moses. Yes, such is the malice
and stupidity of men that they prefer to pass their lives disputing with one
another, and worshipping a book .
Christians would rather adore this phantom than listen to the law of Nature
which God -- that is to say, Nature,
which is the active principle -- has written in the heart of man. All other
laws are but human fictions, and pure
illusions forged, not by Demons or evil spirits, which are fanciful ideas, but
by the skill of Princes and
Ecclesiastics to give the former more warrant for their authority, and to
enrich the latter by the traffic in..."
"Visions to their leaden flock"
of chimeras which sell to the ignorant at a good price."
In the book, The Three Impostors, the word, "Robbins", is, presumably, an archaic pejorative meaning "lawyer", as in he who holds court in "Piepowder's Mossweed Court."
"Robin" is also derivative of robe, in the phrase homme de robe 'man of the gown'. And the gown of the "Robbin" refers to the red colorings (upholstery) of high ranking religious clergy.
"...this name, as well as its original, Robert, is popularly given to many red objects, e.g. to the redbreast (latinized
rubecula) ; to the red campion (Lychnis dioica), commonly called "robins;" to the Lychnis flos cuculis, called "Ragged
Robin;" and "Herb Robert" (Christ Names, ii, 868) ; perhaps from an imagined connexion with Lat. rubeus, red. So
Ruprecht (or Rupert), which is the same name (from O.H. Ger. Hruad-peraht, "fame-bright) was long supposed to be
derived from "red," and was transformed into Redbert and Red-beard."
"Redbeard", incidentally, is the anglicised form of "Barbarossa", as in "Frederick Barbarossa". In the mythology of the
"Frederick" who sleeps under the Thuringian mountain awaiting the day of return, Frederick Barbarossa and his
grandson, Frederick II, are considered interchangeable.
"Now tales Prince Rupert's peacock brings
Of walls and trumpets thousand fold"
"Walls and trumpets" allude to the biblical story of Jericho wherein trumpets
were blown and walls fell.
On an "inner" level this is another foreshadowing of the coming destruction of
the ego. The peacock is telling Rupert that the end (of his ego) is coming.
Historically, "walls and trumpets" refers to the 13th century Mongol invasion
of Persia, the "peacock" being the symbol of Persia (modern day Iran). In this
sense, "Prince Rupert's peacock" is either the Sufi mystic and poet discussed
earlier, Rumi, or it is Sufism itself...or both.
"The Mongol war
machine, this well-organized army who believed in accomplishing the job at hand
without fearing death, the
perils of an afterlife, or loss of honor, assembled at Yaylaq where it was
divided into four divisions before
invading the realm of Islam. This was the last breath for the inhabitants of
the cities of Samarqand, Khwarazm,
Nakhshab, Balkh, Herat, Merv, and Nishapur. They fell in quick succession,
domino-like. The inhabitants of each
city were used to shield the Mongol infantry against the arrows of the other
cities while corpses were used to fill
ditches so that the high walls of the defender's fortifications might be
vaulted.... To assess the impact of the
Mongol invasions on human lives, consider the following list, containing
numbers of people massacred in
various raids within a short period of time: Nishapur, 1,747,000; Herat,
1,600,000; Merv, 700,000; Baghdad,
800,000. Smaller cities were wiped off the map altogether: Nasa, 70,000;
Bayhaq, 70,000; Kuhistan, 12,000. Of
course these numbers may not be wholly reliable, but their mere existence
relates a terrible tale.
The thriving city of Balkh, with its pre-Mongol population of 200,000, the
birthplace of Jalal al-Din Rumi,
the center for the production of silk and corn, this granary of Khurasan and
Khwarazm, was later reported by
Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta (1304-1377) to be derelict and deserted.
If we are to understand the poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi, we should know
that..."The Song of the Reed" was written
by a man who, in a single event lost his whole family, all his neighbors, the
surrounding community and the nation in which he had trusted for protection. As
we have seen, from Balkh Jalal
al-Din Rumi fled before the Mongols to the Iranian heartland and ended up in
Konya, in modern Turkey, where
he composed the Masnavi. It begins with "The Song of the Reed." "God giveth
and God taketh away" was the
order of the day; the Mongols could not but be regarded as the scourge of Allah
descending upon rebellious
communities. "Of Him we are and to Him we return" was the only phrase that
could soothe the pain of
separation from loved ones."
"All the forms and distinctions of the phenomenal world are simply masks. The same Dionysos underlies them all. The difficulty is that man has become so accustomed to his mask that he has forgotten that is all it is. Yet a mask that is never removed becomes a face, a false face, though its falsehood is unknown even to its wearer. To see through it rather than with it we must somehow separate from or 'stand outside' it."
Dionysos: The Masks of Madness
by Robert Luyster
Parabola winter 1995
When the masks of religion and ego are burned away and the "folk" god revealed
for the impostor that he is, gnosis (a direct and personal encounter with God,
the infinite) will be experienced.
"In a word, the God of the
people of today is subject to as many forms as Jupiter of the Pagans."
"Frederick's remark about the three great impostors, Moses, Christ and
Mohammed, was familiar currency in this Mediterranean culture which stretched
from Baghdad to Toledo. It expressed in negative form the fact of a fruitful
coexistence between Jewish, Islamic and Christian culture."
- The Holy Roman Empire
by Friedrich Heer (p. 81)
"The spirit of the Blasphemy of the Three Impostors, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed,
is tersely summed up in the saying of the Arabian Sufis, "What care
I for the Kaaba of the Mohammedan, the synagogue of the Jew, or the convent of
"Jalaluddin Rumi's journey in search of God left its mark on other faiths,
paralleling in time
those of two other outstanding mystics: the Catalan kabbalistic rabbi Moshe ben
Nahmanides (1195-1270) and the Mallorcan Catholic Franciscan and poet Raimon
Sufi influence on the cabala is well-known, and Llull himself declared that his
Christian spirituality drew much from the example of Sufis like Rumi."
"In 1274 Ramon Llull wrote, in Arabic, the Book of the Gentile and the Three
Wise Men. This book is "Llull’s most important
apologetic and polemical work,". The book narrates the story of a Gentile,
deeply agonized by his inescapable certainty of death and hopelessness for
anything more, who meets a group of theologians, one a Jew, one a Christian,
and one a Saracen. The theologians persuade the Gentile of
the existence of God and the fact of the resurrection by use of Llull’s Art in
a popularized form."
"The personal Lord speaks only in symbols; his eloquence is all in enigmas. And
at a mysterious sign of recognition the visionary is overwhelmed by such a
power of love that he loses consciousness. When he comes to himself, his
Companion reveals to him: "I am knowledge, I am he who knows and I am what is
- ibn al-`Arabi
"The cause of all things is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination,
opinion, or reason, or
intelligence; nor is it spoken or thought. ... It is neither essence, nor
eternity, nor time."
- Dionysius the Areopagite
"Because we are not
capable of knowing what God is but only what He is not, we cannot
contemplate how God is but only
how He is not."
"This is the ultimate in human knowledge
of God: to know that we do not know Him."
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
"All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.
But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—
there, some unknown but still reasoning thing
puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.
If man will strike, strike through the mask!"
- Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Psychologically, the "prophets" represent the psychological function of
Intuition "chained" by the ego and its total reliance upon Sensation. This
bondage will end with the destruction of the ego.
Historically this line refers to the persecution of Sufi mystics.
"Three of the stormiest and most controversial early movements within Sufism
were led by Husayn ibn
Mansur Haflaj (crucified AD 922),'Ain al-QudAt Hamaddni (crucified AD 1131),
and Shahâb al-Din
Suhrawardi (crucified AD 1191). They all preached ideas antithetical to the
basic tenets of established
"The Sufi goal of the union with God was regarded as heresy by many outside of
and was seen as a threat to Islam. Islamic scholars believed that knowledge of
obtained from the study of the qu'ran, not through personal experience. In 922
Sufi mystic al-Hallaj, was crucified for blasphemy for his ecstatic declaration
with God, "I am the Truth". Despite these attempts to suppress Sufism, it
spread its influence."
"It's probable that al-Hallaj and the
Islamic orthodoxy who executed him had two very different ideas
of God in mind. Reynold Nicholson in The Mystics of Islam
describes these two ideas, as they occur in Islam.
Both Moslem and Sufi declare that God is One . . . The
Moslem means that God is unique in His essence,
qualities, and acts; that He is absolutely unlike all
other beings. The Sufi means that God is the One Real
Being which underlies all phenomena. . . . the whole
universe, including man, is essentially one with God. .
Nicholson even implies that orthodox religion and mystic
habitually see God in these two different ways.
Religion sees things from the aspect of plurality, but
gnosis regards the all-embracing Unity. ([N11],74).
Therefore, Hallaj probably meant he had achieved unity with the
God which is not a Person. In fact, a few other mystics
understood his claim in exactly that way.
"I am the Absolute Truth," or, as it was translated
later, "I am God," led many mystics to believe that
Hallaj was a pantheist, conscious of the unity of
Tragically, the Islamic orthodox did not.
And then there was Averroes, the principal "prophet chained for burning masks" - just prior to the birth of Fredrick II.
"Averroes' principal philosophical treatise, the wickedly titled Incoherence of the Incoherence ... was a
refutation of the work of one of the luminaries of eleventh-century Islamic theology : the Incoherence of
Philosophy by al-Ghazali. Algazel articulated the uncompromising stance that the God of the philosophers was not
the God of Islam----thus the "incoherence" of philosophy for a Muslim. Algazel's work was a frontal attack on
philosophy per se, which he saw as being intractably at odds with the fundamental revelations of the Quran. Averroes,
then, was the third, and for all intents and purposes, the last in a sequence of writers carrying on an acerbic
dialogue across time & space, across the astonishingly broad expanses of the Islamic world. His vigorous defense of
Avicenna and his attack on Algazel's 'incoherence" made him a hero to many of the Parisians who struggled throughout
the 13th C. to be able to use him & Aristotelian commentaries in their classrooms.
But at home and inside his own culture, Averroes received a markedly different reception. He died in Marrakech under
suspicious circumstances, but almost certainly while under some form of house arresst by the Almohads."
- The Ornament of the World
by Maria Rosa Menocal
"Reels of dream unrolled" is also a description of the alchemical White Swan
("there a Swan is born"). As noted in chapter five, the word "reels",
as opposed to "scrolls", is used to evoke the image of the cinema.
In the inner world of the cinema, reels of film are unrolled and inner
brightness is used to project an image on a surface, an image often erroneously
mistaken for reality. In the White Swan stage
" the alchemist begins to experience the inner world as being light
filled - the initial inner brightness which is often erroneously mistaken for
true illumination. This is merely a first conscious encounter with the etheric
world, and in comparison with physical sense experience is for many souls so
overpowering as to be pictured as bright white light. The alchemical tradition
recognised this and symbolised this stage as the White Swan. The swan is a bird
which is rarely seen in flight, but rather swimming upon lake or river,
gracefully moving on the surface of water- in soul terms, on the soul's
surface, its etheric interface with the physical."
The swell of music at the end
Prince Rupert Awakes
represents this initial inner brightness, an overpowering bright white light.
"The Light is the opening to a new state of consciousness and when one breaks
through to that level, it appears as an explosion of White Light breaking into
rainbow colors. Once the consciousness becomes adjusted to the new frequency or
accustomed to the Light, you begin to perceive your experience in a new way."