Sunday, December 18, 2005

Commentary on an Arabian Nights' Tale

A Commentary on a tale from The Arabian Nights, "The Tale of Hasan and the Persian Magician". In this commentary, I have used the Powys Mathers translation, as found in the book, Gay Tales and Verses from The Arabian Nights, compiled, edited, and with an introduction by Henry M. Christman (Banned Books, Austin, Texas: 1989)


Page thirty-six describes the main character, Hasan, as "a youth ... who was the most handsome, gracious, and dainty of his time." His "beauty drew the eyes of all passengers to-wards his shop [he was a very young and boyish shop-owner], and none crossed the market without stopping at the door to contemplate and marvel at this work of the Creator" [i.e., at the young man's remarkable beauty.] In other words, his outward physical appearance conformed especially closely to the common archetypal image of the beautiful young man--so much so that the majority of people, both male and female, were drawn to his beauty.

Also from page thirty-six we learn that "His father and mother loved him greatly, for he was the child of their old age ..."

This generation gap, together with the fact that his father had died while the boy was yet young, would seem to suggest--despite the weak inference--that the boy was deprived of some of his necessary emotional familial bonding as a child, and was therefore sending out sub-conscious signals to others advertising his need for such emotional bonding (i.e., "love" and "approval" from older authority-figures). The boy would thus be ripe, we would say, for the attentions of an older homosexual male. This is quite separate and apart from the notice the boy would attract simply because of his strong archetypal 'beauty'.

Also from page thirty-six:

"[H]e soon wasted his father's savings in feasting and dissipation with young men of his own age ..."

The implication here, of course, is that only relationships with those older (and wiser) than himself will help him--that congress with only more inexperienced youths such as himself will inevitably lead only to his ruin (cf. the Biblical story of the "Prodigal Son"). Perhaps (in passing) this lesson is appropriate for today's young men--enamoured of each other (in the form of gangs) as they are. ... But of course--at least as far as today's youth are concerned--the reverse can also be argued: that it is a failure of intergenerational bonding--due to fear of relating and expressing intergenerational emotions or sexuality--which precisely forces young men to bond with each other, instead of with their elders.

At page thirty-seven, the Persian Magus wishes to adopt the boy as his own son and teach him his art. For references to this ancient pedagogic tradition, see John Boswell's The Kindness of Strangers.

Based also on page thirty-seven:

Whether from hope of riches, or from the sub-conscious realisation that his deepest needs for emotional bonding are (potentially) about to be met, the young man is already defending his growing relationship with the Persian Magus to his mother. One wonders to what degree the (admittedly fictional) youth was being knowingly and intentionally devious and complicitory in the matter. ... Note also, from page thirty-eight, that the youth is either ignorant of his own beauty (and its potential for attracting others to him), or intentionally glosses over and hides its power in front of his mother: "Mother, [he says] we are poor and have nothing to tempt the cupidity of any ..." In other words, "How could this old man ever possibly be interested in little old ME? ..."

Also at page thirty-eight, the magus demands a non-married status from the youth in exchange for the magus' knowledge. How convenient! This is actually because--following ancient practise--the youth becomes in effect the sexual partner of the older teacher in exchange for the love, guidance, and knowledge imparted. The youth essentially becomes a magus-in-training, and--as such--becomes the life-partner of the older teacher in every way (including the sexual). That is to say, the two must bond in all areas. Historically, such master-student relationships have sometimes been tolerated, occasionally even encouraged; today, however, this is obviously not the case. (This is what is known to some of us as the 'pedagogic' tradition.)

From page thirty-nine:

Irrespective of the actual form of the instruction, what the magus has actually been doing, in effect, is teaching the boy an alternative way of perceiving his reality, and since most different ways of 'perceiving reality' usually violate local taboo or custom (as in this example), strong resistance is usually encountered. Most people (as in the boy's mother) are usually timid sheep who dare not think of going against societal custom or thought, and as a result, they are almost always intolerant of attempts by those within their influence (relatives, neighbours, friends, etc.) to stray beyond those invisible mind-boundaries. Some of us more adventurous souls today encounter this same type of resistance and/or punishment for daring to think (and especially act) counter to the prevailing "wisdom".

But it should be especially noted that the price or prerequisite for higher knowledge (mystical awareness, esoteric knowledge, etc.) has ever been--first and foremost--the ability to see beyond one's own immediate cultural frontiers, or ways of thinking. In order to advance in knowledge and experience, therefore, cultural "norms" must first be challenged and shown to be relative--i.e., not by any means fixed and immutable. This is exactly what the magus has been doing: teaching the youth to see beyond his society's arbitrary restrictions. This is the first step on the path of knowledge, or "enlightenment". And since those with vested interests in societies usually do not like their privileged status to be challenged or threatened [would you, in a similar position? Would I?], they usually fiercely persecute these true teachers or "light-bringers" (Lucifers) of humanity--label them as "devils" or "witches" (etc.) so as to create fear in the minds of their potential field of candidates, thus crippling the passing of real saving knowledge and mystical illumination (which has ever been the goal of true alchemy or kabbalah) from potential master/teachers to their potential students.

October or November, 1995.

T.J. White