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(Masnavi Book 4: 49) Moses and Pharaoh as types of Reason and Imagination









Explaining that imagination (wahm) is the counterfeit of Reason and in opposition to it, and that though it resembles Reason it is not Reason; and the story of the replies given to each other by Moses, on whom be peace, who was the possessor of Reason, and Pharaoh, who was the possessor of imagination.

Reason is the contrary of sensuality: O brave man, do not call (by the name of) Reason that which is attached to sensuality.
That which is a beggar of sensuality—call it imagination: imagination is the counterfeit of the
sterling gold of the rational faculties.
Without a touchstone, imagination and reason are not clearly distinguished: quickly bring both to the touchstone.
The Qur’án and the (spiritual) state of the Prophets are this touchstone: they, like a touchstone,
say to the counterfeit coin, Come,

2305. That by contact with me you mayst see yourself (and know) that you art not worthy of my higher and lower (degrees of spirituality).”
If a saw make Reason (to be severed into) two halves, it (Reason) will be smiling like gold in the fire.
Imagination belongs to Pharaoh, the world-incendiary; Reason to Moses, the spirit-enkindler. Moses went on the way of non-existence (self-negation): Pharaoh said to him, “Tell (me), who art thou?”
He said,I am Reason, the messenger of the Almighty: I am the proof of God, I am the
protection against error.”

2310.  “Nay, said he, hush, cease from (this ecstatic) outcry: tell (me) your ancient lineage and name.”
“My lineage, he said, “(is derived) from His dust-pit; my original name is ‘the meanest of His slaves.’
I am the slave-born (slave) of that unique Lord—born of the (womb and) loins of slaves female
and male.
My original lineage (is derived) from earth and water and clay: God gave unto water and clay a soul and heart.
To earth also will return this earthen body of mine; to earth you likewise wilt return, O terrible one.


2315. Our origin and the origin of all the proud is from a piece of earth, and (there are) a hundred signs thereof;
For your body receives support (sustenance) from the earth, and from earthly nutriment your neck is wrapped in folds (of flesh).
When the spirit departs, it (the body) will again become earth in the dreaded and horrible grave. Both you and we and all who resemble you will become earth, and your power will remain no
more.”
He (Pharaoh) said, “You have a name other than this lineage: truly that name is more proper for thee—

2320. ‘Slave of Pharaoh and slave of his slaves, (a slave) whose body and soul were first nurtured by him (Pharaoh),
A hostile, insolent and unrighteous slave, who fled from this country on account of an ill-omened deed.
You art a murderer and treacherous and ungrateful: from just these qualities, forsooth, form a judgement (as to the rest).
(You art) in exile, despised and poor and threadbare, since you didst not acknowledge gratitude and obligation to me.”
He (Moses) said, Far be it that any other person should be a partner in Lordship with that King.

2325. (He is) One: He has no associate in Kingship; His slaves have no master but Him.
His creatures have no other owner: does any one claim partnership with Him except one that is doomed to perish?
He has made the design, He is my Designer; if another lay claim (to it), he is a seeker of iniquity.
You canst not fashion my eyebrow: how canst you know my soul?
Nay, it is you who art the traitor and the insolent one, for you claimest duality with God.

2330. If I inadvertently killed a ruffian, I killed (him) neither for self's sake nor in sport.
I struck (him) a blow with my fist, and he suddenly fell: one who really had no soul gave up a soul.
I killed a cur: you the children of him who was sent (by God)hundreds of thousands of
innocent and harmless babes
Have killed, and their blood is on your neck: consider what shall come upon you because of this blood-drinking of yours.
You have killed the progeny of Jacob—those sought after in hope of slaying me.

2335. In despite of you God Himself chose me out: that (plot) which your soul was concocting was overthrown.”
He (Pharaoh) said, Let these things be without any doubt (grant that all this is true): is it (the
gratitude) due to me and to the bread and salt (which you have eaten)
That you shouldst treat me with contumely in the presence of the assembled people and make the bright day dark to my heart?”
He (Moses) said, The contumely of the Resurrection is more grievous, (which you wilt suffer) if you do not pay regard to me in good and evil.
You canst not bear the bite of a flea: how wilt you taste (endure) the bite of a snake?

2340. In appearance I am ruining your work, but (in reality) I am making a thorn into a rose- garden.

Explaining that cultivation consists in devastation and composure in distraction and wholeness in brokenness and success in failure and existence in non-existence; and thus (with) the rest of the contraries and pairs.



A certain man came and was cleaving the soil: a fool cried out and could not control himself, Saying, Wherefore are you ruining this soil and cleaving and scattering it?’
O fool, said he, ‘begone, do not interfere with me: recognise (the difference of) cultivation from devastation.
How should this (soil) become a rose-garden or cornfield till this soil becomes ugly and ruined?

2345. How should it become orchards and crops and leaves and fruit till its arrangement is turned upside down?’
Till you pierce the purulent ulcer with a lancet, how will it become well and how will you become healthy?
Till he (the physician) cleanse your (corrupt) humours with medicine, how will the indisposition
be removed? How will a cure be effected?
When a tailor cuts (the cloth for) a garment piece by piece, will any one strike that expert tailor, Saying, ‘Why have you torn this choice satin? What can I do with a torn (garment)?’

2350. Whenever they (the builders) put an old building in good repair, do not they first ruin the old one?
Likewise the carpenter, the iron-smith and the butcher—with them (too) there is destruction
before restorations.
The pounding of myrobalan and bastard myrobalan—by reason of that destruction they become the means of restoring the body (to health).
Until you crush wheat in the mill, how will our table be garnished with it?
(The obligation of gratitude for) that bread and salt (of yours) demanded that I should deliver you, O fish, from the net.

2355. If you accept the counsel of Moses, you wilt escape from such an evil infinite net. Inasmuch as you have made yourself the slave of sensuality, you have made a petty worm into a dragon.
I have brought a dragon for (your) dragon, that I may correct (thy dragon's) breath by (my
dragon's) breath,
So that the breath of that one may be defeated by the breath of this one, and that my serpent may destroy that dragon (of yours).
If you submittest, you art freed from two serpents; otherwise, it (thy dragon) will bring your spirit to utter perdition.

2360. He (Pharaoh) said,In truth, you art an exceedingly cunning sorcerer, for by craft you have introduced duality (disunion) here.
You have made the unanimous people into two factions: sorcery makes fissures in rock and mountain.
He (Moses) said, I am submerged in the message of God: who (ever) saw sorcery together with the name of God?
The substance of sorcery is forgetfulness (of God) and unbelief: the spirit of Moses is the flaming
torch of the (true) religion.
How do I resemble sorcerers, O impudent one?—for the Messiah (Jesus) is becoming jealous of my (life-giving) breath.

2365. How do I resemble sorcerers, O polluted one?for the (Revealed) Books are receiving light from my spirit.
Since you art soaring on the wings of sensuality, inevitably you bearest (in your heart) that (ill)
thought against me.
Every one whose actions are those of wild beasts has ill thoughts against the noble.


Since you art a part of the world, howsoever you art you deemest all to be of the same description as yourself, misguided man.
If you whirl round and your head whirl round, your (organ of) sight sees the house whirling round;

2370. And if you embark in a ship moving on the sea, you deemest the seashore to be running (along).
If you art narrow (oppressed) at heart from (being engaged in) combat, you deemest the whole atmosphere of the world to be narrow;
And if you art happy as your friends would desire, this world seems to you like a garden of roses.
How many a one has gone as far as Syria and ‘Iráq and has seen nothing but unbelief and hypocrisy;
And how many a one has gone as far as India and Hirá (Herát) and seen nothing but selling and
buying;

2375. And how many a one has gone as far as Turkistán and China and seen nothing but deceit and hidden guile!
Since he has no object of perception save colour and perfume (external phenomena), let him seek (through) all the climes, (he will see nothing spiritual).
(If) a cow come suddenly into Baghdád and pass from this side (of the city) to that (farther) side,
Of all (its) pleasures and joys and delights she will see nothing but the rind of a water-melon. (If) straw or hay has fallen on the road, (it is) suitable to his (such a one's) bovine or asinine disposition.

2380. (Hanging) dry on the nail of (his bestial) nature, like strips of meat (exposed to the sun), his spirit, bound with (the cords of) secondary causes, does not grow;
But the spacious realm where means and causes are torn to shreds (transcended) is the earth of
God, O most honourable sire.
It is ever changing, like a (fleeting) picture: the spirit beholds in clairvoyance a world (appearing)
anew and anew.
(Everything), though it be Paradise and the rivers of Eden, becomes ugly when it is congealed
(fixed permanently) in one aspect.

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