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Herat, Arifi of

Category: Poet

Arifi of Herat was a poet living in the 15th century.  He was a Sufi and is best known for his poem The Book of Ecstasy, alternately titled The Ball and the Polo Stick - Hâlnâmah, popularly known as the Guy-i Çevgan

The text of this manuscript was rendered in a delicate cut paper découpage calligraphy by Mehmed bin Gazanfer and completed in 1540, and features many marbled and decorative paper borders, as such it is not only a mystic text, but a work of art.

The Ball and the Polo stick is a symbolic reference to out of body experiences. Achieved via sexual stimulation and peaking.

The objective of The Book of Ecstasy was to describe certain aspects of Sufi initiation while still preserving the secrecy. Arifi’s intent was in keeping with a long line of tradition. In his introduction to The Book of Ecstasy, Barakawi-Khajawi commented that Arifi’s poem was “very short” and “very clear.”

In fact, it is nothing of the sort. While it may be short, it certainly is not clear. Rather, it is purposely unclear. It is so unclear that scholars have taken Arifi’s pronouncement, “I made it in two weeks to make it famous,” to refer to the time he took to write the poem. Instead, the revelation was a clear reference for those who knew, to a two-week initiatory event between the new moon and the full moon during which the [composer] of the aspirant was away from the physical body on its journeys to other realms. It was a reference to a Mohammad-like Night Journey but of two weeks duration. With this in mind, some fragments of the secret vision behind Arifi’s absurd usage of The Ball and the Polo Stick can be explored.

 

I am now going to quote from the site - http://islammysteries.com/Arifi.html because the explanation they give is helpful in parts.

“The field upon which Arifi played his metaphors was the polo field. On the polo field the ball and the stick were the main actors moving events forward. But Arifi admitted early on that he was playing with language that was not meant to be taken literally…..

In fact, the polo field was the solar system and the main players were the sun, the moon, the earth, and the dervish about to be initiated. The initiation that was about to take place was hinted at by Arifi,

“The polo stick of the new moon and the ball of the sun hope for a trace of his favor so long as the ball of earth and heaven abides, so long as the polo stick of the new moon is between them.”

The symbolism being used here is that of the New moon.  The Sun in this case is the Higher spirit, the new moon – the crescent moon is symbolic of the pelvis and the polo stick is the spine.

References

Pictures of the manuscript held in the Aga Khan museum

Observations

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