The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep. —Jelaluddin Rumi, The Essential Rumi
“People need poetry that will be their own secret to keep them awake forever,” professes Osip Mandelshtam, “and bathe them in the bright-haired wave of its breathing” (qtd. in Rees: 82). Given its ennobling, rousing effect, poetry is an antidote to contention and indifference. It is an exalted form of activism, an expression of tender outrage. Even as poetry forces us to grapple with what is difficult and painful, it is a generous, liberating discipline. “Part of the majesty of poetry,” writes Edward Hirsch, “is that it works against the suffering it describes. It restores us to what is deepest in ourselves” (5).
In need of depth and resonance, many Americans have turned to poetry, in particular the mystical sort. On account of the clear, poignant translations of Coleman Barks and his esteemed colleagues Robert Bly and Andrew Harvey, the poet Jelaluddin Rumi—a thirteenth-century Sufi known by virtue of his emotive, passionate commitment to “the Beloved”—has become America's poetic darling. Much like C. G. Jung, he serves as a modern muse and teacher, a prince of divine love.
“Across the Doorsill Where the Two Worlds Touch” speaks to the affinity existent between depth psychology and the poetry of Rumi. An observance of ambiguity, the pith of the Jungian approach, it is not as much about traversing “the doorsill where the two worlds touch” as it is about resting inside the doorsill, where opposites converge in silence. Commencing with an exploration of the relationship between mythopoesis and mysticism, it then details Sufism, which concerns itself with the purification and tuning of the heart. Subsequently, the dissertation pivots themes of desire and drunkenness, collapse and forgetfulness, and dreaming, dying, and becoming. Alchemy, imagination, and play—important elements of both depth psychology and the poetry of Rumi—are viewed in light of nature, the body, and desire. Finally, and most importantly, longing is construed as a holy impulse, a precursor to the meeting and merging of the ego and the Self, the lover and the Beloved.