‘The Conference of the Birds’, is an epic poem of approximately 4500 lines written in Persian by the poet Farid ud-Din Attar in the early 12 century. It recounts the longing of a group of birds who desire to know the great Simorgh, and who, under the guidance of a leader bird, start their journey towards the Great One. One by one, they drop out of the journey, each offering an excuse and unable to endure the journey. Each bird has a special significance, and strength with an inherent weakness. The birds must cross seven valleys in order to find the Simorgh: (Yearning), (Love), (Gnosis), (Detachment),(Unity of God), (Bewilderment) and, finally, (Selflessness and Oblivion in God). These represent the stations an individual must pass through to realize the true nature of God. Within the larger context of their journey is a view that God is not external or separate from the universe, rather is the totality of existence and it is a God that is within.
Background to Series: Over about a 12 month period in 2013-14 David Less shared his commentary on four Sufi Messengers: Ibn Arabi, Al Hallaj, Jelal-ud-Din Rumi and Farid-ud-Din Attar. These commentaries are framed by Pir Vilayat’s own commentaries published in his 1970 paper. They were filmed in Sarasota at the Universal Retreat Center, usually in the late morning after David Less had met with retreatants.