Turn Me to Gold: Andrew Harvey and the Poetry of Kabir

By Andrew Harvey
Turn Me To Gold: 108 Poem of Kabir by Andrew Harvey Photos by Canadian photographer Brett Hurd

Excerpted from his book Turn Me to Gold: 108 Poems of Kabir.

Kabir is far more than a poet; he is a universal initiatory field, as expansive as Rumi, and, as embodied, radical and ferocious as Jesus. He is the voice of the evolutionary truth and its piercing love and we have never needed to hear him more or be more ready to hear him.

For five years I have worked with my whole mind, heart, and body on breathing and living his words, the fierce temperature of his truth. I worked, with my smattering of Hindi, with many scholars in India and Europe and from many translations in different languages—French, Italian, German.

The ones that have taught and honed me the most are by two amazing scholars: Charlotte Vaudeville and Linda Hess, I salute them.

Turn Me To Gold: 108 Poem of Kabir by Andrew Harvey Photos by Canadian photographer Brett Hurd

All this strange, precise, ecstatic work took place on different continents in the gaps of the busiest and most exhausting period of my life.

So I lived with Kabir in airports and hotels and planes and restaurants and trains, walking his streets of Benares, speaking him to the blazing stones of the Namib desert, dreaming of his ecstatic singing one Christmas in Istanbul.

I lost myself deliberately and with awe in Kabir and the limitless life our love was unveiling in me.

Turn Me to Gold is the child of living with Kabir and trying to die into the splendor he sings so it could sing out again its prophecy of divine embodiment.

On the Structure of Turn Me to Gold

Kabir sang his poems in the noisy and filthy alleys of 15th-century Benares; he knew God as the supreme musician whose sound always rang in his ears. Only a rich musical form I knew could ever begin to do justice to the different dancing facets of Kabir’s genius and their endless interplay.

Turn Me to Gold is arranged as a mystical symphony in four movements.

Turn Me To Gold: 108 Poem of Kabir by Andrew Harvey Photos by Canadian photographer Brett Hurd

In the first movement, “I am always by your side,” Kabir drags us nakedly headlong into his revelations of the direct connection with the One.

Conquer the mind

Hack it to the ground

Destroy the evil ego

Your murdered mind

Will cry: “Beloved! Beloved!”
and death will not dare

Touch the tiniest hair

Of your head.

In the second movement, “True loves never die” these revelations become personal, fierce, alchemical, poignant as a great struggle to die into life starts and surges.

Do not blame Love for the agony it brings;

Love is the King of all paths,

And the heart not wild with longing

Is already dead, already a burial ground.

The third movement “Nothing left to know” works with both the light and the dark of the One with increasing subtlety to unveil a mystery of union beyond all opposites.

Kabir says:

Listen, seeker.

The one true master

Is light throughout.

Calling Him ‘heavy’

Frightens me.

Calling Him ‘light’

Is a lie.

What do I know of Him?

These eyes have never seen Him.

The fourth movement “Each taste brings bliss” is a marriage feast of embodied divine awakening flooded with bliss and peace and gratitude.

When the Day came—

The Day I had lived and died for—

The Day that is not in any calendar—

Clouds heavy with love

Showered me with wild abundance.

Inside me, my soul was drenched.

Around me, even the desert grew green.

May Turn Me to Gold be far more than a book to you, as it has been far more than a book to me. Let Kabir guide you, take his hand, let him lead you into the abyss of unknowing where you will find yourself, despite yourself, being turned to gold.

Andrew Harvey is an internationally renowned religious scholar, writer, and teacher, and the author of more than 40 books, including the critically acclaimed The Hope; Son of Man, and Savage Grace with Carolyn Baker. Born in south India in 1952, Harvey has devoted much of his life to studying the world’s mystical traditions, including intensive study of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufi mysticism. Visit andrewharvey.net

Photos excerpted from the book by Canadian photographer Brett Hurd.