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The Secrets of the Self, by Muhammad Iqbal, tr. by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1920], at


Showing that the life of the Self comes from forming desires and bringing them to birth.

Life is preserved by purpose:
Because of the goal its caravan-bell tinkles.
Life is latent in seeking,
Its origin is hidden in desire. 270
Keep desire alive in thy heart,
Lest thy little dust become a tomb.
Desire is the soul of this world of hue and scent,
The nature of every thing is faithful to desire.
Desire sets the heart dancing in the breast, 275

p. 24

And by its glow the breast is made bright as a mirror.
It gives to earth the power of soaring,
It is a Khizr to the Moses of perception. 1
From the flame of desire the heart takes life,
280 And when it takes life, all dies that is not true.
When it refrains from forming wishes,
Its pinion breaks and it cannot soar.
Desire is an emotion of the Self:
It is a restless wave of the Self's sea.
285 Desire is a noose for hunting ideals,
A binder of the book of deeds.
Negation of desire is death to the living,
Even as absence of burning extinguishes the flame.
What is the source of our wakeful eye?
290 Our delight in seeing hath taken visible shape.

p. 25

The partridge's leg is derived from the elegance of its gait,
The nightingale's beak from its endeavour to sing.
Away from the reed-bed, the reed became happy:
The music was released from its prison. 1
Why does the mind strive after new discoveries and scale the heavens? 295
Knowest thou what works this miracle?
’Tis desire that enriches Life,
And the intellect is a child of its womb.
What are social organisation, customs, and laws?
What is the secret of the novelties of 300 science?
A desire which broke through by its own strength
And burst forth from the heart and took shape.

p. 26

Nose, hand, brain, eye, and ear,
Thought, imagination, feeling, memory, and understanding
305 All these are weapons devised for self-preservation
By him that rides into the battle of Life.
The object of science and art is not knowledge,
The object of the garden is not the bud and the flower.
Science is an instrument for the preservation of Life,
310 Science is a means of establishing the Self.
Science and art are servants of Life,
Slaves born and bred in its house.
Rise, O thou who art strange to Life's mystery,
Rise intoxicated with the wine of an ideal!
315 If thou art an ideal, thou wilt shine as the dawn

p. 27

And be to all else as a blazing fire.
If thou art an ideal, thou art higher than Heaven
Winning, captivating, enchanting men's hearts;
A destroyer of ancient falsehood,
Fraught with turmoil, an embodiment of the Last Day. 320
We live by forming ideals,
We glow with the sunbeams of desire!


24:1 Cf. Koran, ch. 18, vv. 64-80. Khizr represents the mystic seer whose actions are misjudged by persons of less insight.

25:1 I.e. the reed was made into a flute.

Next: III. The Self is Strengthened by Love