THE BIRDS WHO FLEW BEYOND TIME
The story of
The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time is inspired by the great Persian
poet Farid ud-Din Attar's classic twelfth century allegory, The
Conference of the Birds. This magical retelling for children aged
7 years and over shows that the central theme of Attar's poem - the
need to awaken the heart - is as relevant and vital today as it always
has been. The book itself is sadly out of print but
can be obtained on the internet through Amazon and other booksellers.
It has recently (2007) been made available to download in an
exact replica including all the pictures from http://www.childrenslibrary.org.
The story is
also eloquently read by Andrew Harvey in an audio-cassette recording
called The Feather in Your Heart, obtainable from Sounds True
Publications Inc. PO Box 8010/Dept. WH, Boulder, Co. 80306-8010. Phone
1-800-333 9185. Alternatively, a beautiful CD recording has recently
been made by Jen Kershaw, in England, and is available from her at
Priestlands House, Priestlands, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 4HN at a price
of £12.50. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
begins: 'One day, the Earth was feeling very sad. She sent a message
to her birds all over the world and said to them: "I need your help.
Please will you gather together in one place so that I can speak to
you?"' So starts the adventure of the birds who flew beyond time.
Birds of all kinds, from every region of the world, respond to the
Earth's call. She tells them that she is dying - her land and rivers
and oceans are being poisoned and her beautiful planet is ravaged
by war. Can the birds help her? If they are to do so, they must set
out on a special journey. They must fly through seven terrible valleys,
overcoming the monsters that live in each valley, until they find
the Great Being who is the life of all life. Then they must bring
back to Earth the message they are given. Full of fear but encouraged
by their guide, the Hoopoe, the birds set out on a journey that is
ours as well as theirs - a journey that transforms the destructive
elements of the soul and frees it to act on behalf of life.
"Not long ago, the
"facts of life" were a lot less complicated and a lot easier to explain
to young children. Now that sex is a matter of public discussion,
so, too, are the facts of our overwhelming global crises. How do we
explain to our children that their legacy has been plundered by a
succession of generations - for a few pieces of gold? How can we persuade
and empower them to grow into responsible citizens in a world that
may not last their lifetime? Few myths exist for our troubled times
that can create the understanding that inspires positive personal
and social action. Through The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time
(Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1994), author Anne Baring allows the
Earth herself to speak to the children - and to their grown-ups.
In this multi-layered, yet readily accessible allegory - based on
a poem by 12th Century Sufi Mystic, Farid ud-Din Attar, and exquisitely
illustrated by internationally renowned artist, Thetis Blacker - Earth
summons all the birds of the world to undertake a journey that could
save her life: She asks them to fly "east of the sun and west of the
moon, over the edge of time" to the deep sea dwelling place of the
Great Being. They are to tell this Being of "shining splendour" that
Earth is in danger, and receive a special message for Her.
journey is a long and perilous one, for the birds must first traverse
the valleys of Doubt, False Dreams, Envy, Hate, Power, Cruelty and
Despair. To succeed, each must break the powerful spell that the "monsters"
of the valleys will cast upon them. The challenge is daunting and
attracts few volunteers.
Never having heard the Earth
speak before, and comfortable with their own ways of life, the birds
raise familiar objections and offer rational reasons why they should
be excused. Some doubt the seriousness of Earth's plight and the reality
of a Great Being. Others feel inadequate to face such a trial and
reluctant to undertake what could be a wild goose chase.
as their guide from "the world invisible," the Hoopoe has the wisdom
to answer all misgivings and inspire their higher nature. She tells
the birds that they will need the "courage of an eagle, the night
vision of an owl, the wisdom of a raven, and the gentleness of a dove"
to succeed on their journey. She also describes the essential "golden
feather" that resides in all their hearts, linking them with the Great
Being and to each other, and providing them the means to transcend
Though the birds set off
on the journey together, all must face the demons of inner darkness
alone. Those birds who prevail are the ones who discover that no matter
how discouraging and persuasive are the resonant voices of the "monsters,"
there is always a deeper truth that exists beyond them and
can prevail over them.
few weary birds who finally arrive at the "House of the Treasure"
are startled to learn that the Great Being is not going to save the
Earth for them, but, rather, through them: The divine message they
are to carry back to Earth is their own transformed selves! As they
journey back to Earth, fully restored, the birds find that the deadly
valleys have become beautiful gardens and their fallen comrades are
now free to join them. Earth, too, is recovered and in full flower.
She asks the birds to relate their story to children everywhere; for
she knows that when the young ones hear it, they will want to preserve
the Earth for all Her future children.
a scholar's skills and a healer's heart, Baring offers children a
fundamental understanding of life's purpose and pattern that truly
is beyond all time and circumstances. Whether read alone, or in the
company of a wise parent or teacher, The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time
yields up abundant treasure, and offers essential levels of awareness
rarely provided by public education:
----- "The Birds
Who Flew Beyond Time - This magical, spellbinding book - for children
and adults alike - will transport readers through seven valleys of inner
darkness toward the home of the Great Being. Only by overcoming the
persuasive voices of the seven "monsters" who preside over each of these
treacherous regions can the birds arrive at their destination and receive
the message that could save the Earth. Children who are overwhelmed
and discouraged by what they hear of our global crisis may come to understand
that world problems are human both in origin and solution. The artwork
is collector-quality brilliant."
"Thetis Blacker's superb illustrations and Anne Baring's
fluent, well-paced narrative combine to make The Birds Who Flew
Beyond Time an entrancing story. It is likely to appeal to readers
of all ages. The book is a sensitively handled recasting of some of
the main themes of that classic of Sufi spirituality, Mantiq Ut-tair,
The Conference of the Birds, a long allegorical work by the
12th century Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar. Drawing on C.S. Nott's
acclaimed translation, Anne Baring has very skilfully cut to the heart
of the matter, abstracting the idea of an epic journey in the course
of which an inner-spiritual truth is realised. Her re-telling is in
ecological terms. A poisoned Earth implores the birds for help…Anne
Baring's style of writing is a commendable blend of the poetic and
the matter of fact. Her lightness of touch ensures that there is no
heavy handed teasing out of the story's wealth of symbolic meaning.
is a book which goes a long way towards fulfilling Barefoot Books'
ambitious philosophy. Each of their publications is prefaced with
a note stating that their interest lies in "new and traditional myths,
legends and fairy tales whose themes demonstrate the pitfalls and
dangers that surround our passage through life; the qualities that
are needed to face and overcome these dangers and the equal importance
of action and reflection in doing so". The Conference of the Birds
was an obvious - but in the event highly successful - candidate for
the Barefoot treatment."
The Times Educational Supplement May 1994
"A book that is a joy. Stunning illustrations warmly
resonate with a richly poetic narrative based on the Persian Sufi
epic 'The Conference of the Birds'. Earth is dying. Only the help
of the birds can save her. They must travel to the House of the Treasure
in a garden beyond the edge of time, for a message from the Great
One who lives there. But the journey is long and difficult. There
are doubts and trials and many powers to be overcome on the way. And
the message at the end is surprising for its simplicity and profundity.
A book not to be missed and to be savoured again and again. It will
certainly match every criteria that might be proposed for the exploration
of the spiritual dimension of the curriculum."
Print Media 1993
"In this retelling of the classic 12th century Sufi
allegory 'The Conference of the Birds', the Earth summons all the
birds of the world on a quest that could save her life: to fly to
the deep sea dwelling place of the Great Being, where they are to
relay the message that the Earth is in danger…Inspired by the brave
Hoopoe, they rise to the occasion, finally entering the Heart of the
Great Being: 'And each of them knew they were at one and the same
time themselves and each other. They were at once the Great Being
and every single, tiny, shining particle of that life. In that instant,
they saw through the hundred thousand veils.' Thetis Blacker's dazzling,
luminous batik illustrations are, like the dancing suns at the Heart
of the Great Being, 'each more glorious than the other.'"
Yoga Journal 1994
"This beautifully illustrated book presents to young
people a mythic story that eloquently expresses the most profound
and fundamental issues of human existence. It is an engaging story
of the heroic journey of the birds to seek the healing of the Earth
and ultimately of all creatures. The physical trials they endure are
matched by the spiritual struggles they must contend with to save
the Earth. Through this evocatively told allegory there is a wealth
of wisdom that recalls the wonderful teaching tales of old coupled
with a modern ecological quest. The illustrations have an iconographic
quality in design and color that fit well with this story."
Creation Spirituality 1994
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