Prelude: Of the bond between individual and community
The link that binds the individual
To the Society a mercy is;
His truest self in the community
Alone achieves fulfilment. Wherefore be
So far as in thee lies in close rapport
With thy Society, and lustre bring
To the wide intercourse of free‐born men.
Keep for thy talisman these words he spoke
That was the best of mortals: “Satan holds
His furthest distance where men congregate.”
The individual a mirror holds
To the community, and they to him;
He is a jewel threaded on their cord,
A star that in their constellation shines;
And the Society is organized
As by comprising many such as he.
When in the Congregation he is list
’Tis like a drop which, seeking to expand,
Becomes an ocean. It is strong and rich
In ancient ways, a mirror to the Past
As to the Future, and the link between
What is to come, and what has gone before,
As is Eternity. The joy of growth
Swells in his heart from the community,
That watches and controls his every deed;
To them he owes his body and his soul,
Alike his outward and his hidden parts.
His thoughts are vocal on the People’s tongue,
And on the pathway that his forbears laid
He learns to run. His immaturity
Is warmed to ripeness by their friendship’s flame,
Till he becomes one with the Commonwealth.
His singleness in multiplicity
Is firm and stable, and itself supplies
A unity to their innumerate swarm.
The word that sits outside its proper verse
Shatters the jewel of the thought concealed
Within its pocket; when the verdant leaf
Falls from the stem, its thread of hope for Spring
Is snapped asunder. He who has not drunk
The water of the People’s sacred well,
The flames of minstrelsy within his lute
Grow cold, and die. The individual,
Alone, is heedless of high purposes;
His strength is apt to dissipate itself;
The People only make him intimate
With discipline, teach him to be as soft
And tractable as is the gentle breeze,
Set him in earth like a well‐rooted oak,
Close‐fetter him, to make him truly free.
When he is prisoner to the chain of Law
His deer, by nature wild and uncontrolled,
Yields in captivity the precious musk.
Thou, who hast not known self from selflessness,
Therefore hast lost thyself in vain surmise,
Within thy dust there is an element
Of Light, whose single shaft illuminates
Thy whole perception; all thy joy derives
From its enjoyment, all thy sorrow springs
From its distress; its constant change and turn
Keep thee in vital being. It is one
And, being one, brooks no duality;
Grace to its glow I am myself, thou thou.
Preserving self, staking and making self,
Nourishing pride in meek humility,
It is a flame that sets a fire alight,
A spark that overshoots the blazing torch.
Its nature is to be both free and bond;
Itself a part, it has the potency
To seize the whole. I have beheld its wont
Is strife incessant, and have called its name
Selfhood, and Life. Whenever it comes forth
From its seclusion, and discreetly steps
Into the riot of phenomena
Its heart is impressed with the stamp of “he”,
“I” is dissolved, converting into “thou”.
Compulsion cuts the freedom of its choice,
Making it rich in love. While pride of self
Pulls its own way, humility is not born;
Pull pride together, and humility
Comes into being. self negates itself
In the community, that it maybe
No more a petal, but a rosary.
“These subtleties are like a steely sword:
If they defeat thy wit, quick, flee away!”1
1 The quotation is from Rumi.