Numerous are the grades of this ascent. If we have been fortunate enough to find the Sufi traveller at the door of union, it is but fit that we tarry a little and take a bird’s-eye view of the vales and wildernesses, steeps and jungles through which he has found his way.

These eyes of ours are, however, useless for the purpose, nor will the best of our binoculars be of any avail. Luckily, a special telescope for the purpose has been left behind by Shaykh Farid-ud-din Attar, the gifted author of the famous Colloquy of the Birds, for those wanderers in the Wilderness of Love who may care to avail themselves of it. It is not a mere telescope, it is a vitascope as well, presenting a series of vivid pictures such as one cannot hope to see elsewhere.

Here, then, we see a large assemblage of birds. These feathered friends, who represent human souls, have set their hearts on attending the mysterious court of Simurg, the King of Birds. In the language of the Sufis, the Simurg is the type of Divine Unity, embracing all plurality. Despite the hardships and perils of the journey, these birds have mustered strong under the banner of their daring leader, the Upupa (Hoopoe) who has undertaken to guide them through all the dales and deserts to the Kuh-i-Qaf, the seat of the Sovereign Bird. To borrow the words of Matthew Arnold, a beacon of hope he appears, languor is not in his heart, weakness not in his word, weariness not on his brow. The trumpet sounds and the march begins “on to the bound of the waste, on to the City of God.”

At the very commencement of the journey, the birds begin to tremble at the sight of the awe-inspiring road. Their gifted leader, however, has an inexhaustible store of inspiring stories, to cheer them during their march through the seven valleys through which the journey lies.

Now let us turn to the picture of these valleys. The first is the valley of the Quest, the second of Love; the third of Knowledge; the fourth of De­tachment; the fifth of Unity; the sixth of Bewilderment and the seventh, the steepest of all, of Annihilation. What dense deserts are there in each of these valleys! What hordes of wild beasts and Satan’s emissaries haunt these jungles! An armour knit with many an austere virtue is required to resist the attacks of these foes. Such an armour only a few possess; therefore it is, that we see thousands of these little birds faltering and lagging behind or finding a grave in the valleys. Thirty birds—only thirty out of millions— survive and approach the capital of the Simurg.

After all this travail what a cold welcome these storm-tost souls receive at the sacred threshold! Back, back are they ordered by the Usher of the Royal Court. Their grief at such a reception is so heart-rending that the curtain is at last removed by divine favour, and the sore-smitten pilgrims are admitted to the presence of the King.

Their troubles, however, do not end there. Saintly though their conduct was, marvellous their abstinence and heroic their fortitude, a long, long register is now produced in the Divine Court, enumerating all their sins of omission and commission. Poor, be­nighted things! They are sunk in confusion and are utterly annihilated. This bewilderment and annihi­lation, however, purify them from all earthly elements, and they receive a new life from the divine effulgence. Now they go through another course of bewilderment, in which every trace of all that they had done in their previous life is obliterated. This is Baqā after Fanā, immortality after perishability, life after lifes’ loss, eternal existence after extinction.