When the birds heard this account of the diffi­culties in their way, they realised that the burden of their mission was too heavy for their tiny shoulders, a mere handful of bones as they were. Their souls became restless and many gave up their lives in the very first stage. The rest advanced with patience and courage, and continued their march for years. Several died on the way; others were drowned in the sea; others, again, sacrificed their souls on the summit of the mountains; several were roasted by the heat of the sun, several fell victims to the jackals and tigers in the wilderness. A good many died of thirst in the forest; others went mad with hunger and committed suicide. Some lagged behind, disabled by fatigue or wounds; others could not move forward, dazed by the wonders and mysteries of the path. Some were enchanted by the charming scenery, and began to enjoy themselves, forgetting that they were out in quest of the Simurg. Thus, of the millions who had set out upon the quest, only thirty birds succeeded in completing the journey and reaching the palace of the Simurg. Weary and worn, they were without feathers, without hair, full of pain and agony. Heart-broken, soul-stricken, they reached the seat of the sovereign. They beheld His Majesty without form or quality and beyond the reach of human intellect or understanding. Then flashed the lightning of independence and a hundred worlds were consumed in one instant. Dazed and perplexed they saw that in that realm thousands of luminous suns and millions of moons and stars were like a tiny atom of dust. “O, how strange!” they exclaimed, “when even the sun is like an obscure atom before His Majesty, how can we hope to be seen in this place? O, the pity of it! What agonies have we endured during the journey! Here, a hundred skies are like a particle of dust. It makes no difference whether we are here or not.”

At last the Honourable Usher of the Royal Court came out of the palace. He saw the birds standing before him without a feather or a hair, utterly travel-stained, crippled and stupefied.

“Who are ye?” he asked. “Where do you come from, and what brings you here? What is the name of your tribe and of what use are you, a handful of bones, to the world?”

“We have come here,” said the tiny beings, “because we are anxious to be admitted to the presence of the Simurg and to do Him homage as our king. It is a long, long time since we started on this journey, and only thirty of us have survived out of millions. We have come all the way full of hope that we shall be admitted to the Royal Presence.”

The Chamberlain replied: “Whether you exist or do not exist is immaterial to the Sovereign of Eternity. Millions of worlds filled with myriads of creatures are like an ant at the door of the King. What, then, will your place be before Him? Better return, O handful of paupers!”

The unfortunate pilgrims were so disappointed at this reply that they nearly died. They began to weep and lament and said, “If we have not permission to reach the Court of the Simurg, we have no desire to retrace our steps. Will the great King reject us with contempt upon this road? Can such an insult proceed from Him, and if it does, will it not turn into honour?”

So fervent was their grief, so heart-broken their lamentation that they were admitted to the presence of the Sovereign. But, first of all, a register was placed before them, in which every detail of the deeds that each one of them had done, or had omitted to do, from the beginning to the end, was carefully entered. Seeing this list of transgressions, they were annihilated and sank down in confusion, and their bodies were reduced to dust. After they had been thus completely purged and purified from all earthly elements, their souls were resuscitated by the light of His Majesty. They stood up again, dazed and distracted. In this new life the recollection of their transgressions was completely effaced from their mind. This was baqā after fanā, immortality after perishability, life after life’s loss, eternal existence after extinction.

Now the Sun celestial began to shine forth in front of them, and lo! how great was their surprise! In the reflection of their faces these thirty birds of the earth beheld the face of the Celestial Simurg. When they cast furtive glances towards the Simurg, they perceived that the Simurg was no other than those self-same thirty birds. In utter bewilderment they lost their wits and wondered whether they were their own selves or whether they had been transformed into the Simurg. Then, to themselves they turned their eyes, and wonder of wonders, those self-same birds seemed to be one Simurg! Again, when they gazed at both in a single glance, they were convinced that they and the Simurg formed in reality only one Being. This single Being was the Simurg and the Simurg this Being. That one was this and this one was that. Look where they would, in whatever direction, it was only the Simurg they saw. No one has heard of such a story in the world. Drowned in perplexity, they began to think of this mystery without the faculty of thinking, but finding no solution to the riddle, they besought the Simurg, though no words passed their lips, to explain this mystery and to solve this enigma of I and Thou.

The Simurg thereupon deigned to vouchsafe this reply to them: “The Sun of my Majesty is a mirror. Whoever beholds himself in this mirror, sees there his soul and his body, sees himself entire in it. Soul and body see soul and body. Since you, thirty birds, have come here, you find thirty birds in the mirror. Had you been forty or fifty, you would have beheld forty or fifty. Completely transformed though you be after your journey, you see yourselves here as you were before. At the beginning of your journey, you were numerous, but only thirty of you are able to see Me, and what you see is your own selves. How can any frail human being approach my presence? How can an ant’s eye be lifted to the Pleiades? Has any one ever seen an insect lifting up an anvil or a gnat seizing an elephant with its teeth? All that you have known and seen is neither that which you have known nor that which you have seen. What you have said or heard is neither this nor that. If you have succeeded in crossing the valley of the spiritual road, if you have been able to do good deeds, you have only acted under compulsion from Me and you have thus been able to see the face of My essence and of My perfections. It is well that you have been able to do this, ye thirty birds. Remain bewildered, impatient and astonished. As for Me, I am more than thirty birds. I am the very essence of the Simurg. Annihilate yourselves in Me joyfully and gloriously so that you find yourselves in Me.”

Thereupon the birds lost themselves for ever in the Simurg. The shade thus vanished in the Sun. Neither the traveller remained, nor the guide, nor the path. Finding the Simurg they found themselves and the riddle of I and Thou was solved.