I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal.
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, 'To him shall we return.'
Masnavi I Ma'navi: Book III
Silther heaved himself up from the cold, moist floor. He stumbled forward, into the pool of silver moonlight that shone in from the small, round window. Reluctance stiffened his bowed head, forcing his gaze downwards, and a sigh shook his slender frame as he struggled against this numbing fear. He took in a deep breath and abruptly looked up into the reflection that stood before him, shimmering in the high mirror on the wall.
He winced as he saw himself. Pale as Death, the long wings protruding from his shoulders encrusted in his own blood that had poured forth from his many wounds. There was only a last feather on his wings, stirred by the cool current in the cell. The rest had been plucked out, one by one, month per month, another each time a full moon had risen. Instead of the gleaming white plumage he had proudly borne, he was left with naked skin. A long, dark and painful fall lay behind him, but the ground was in sight now, and he would embrace the liberating end.
One last feather, he thought dolefully. What did I do wrong?
Nothing. He had done his duties as a Warrior of Light, a Herald of the Sun, and had never failed to exert a command from the Father.
But why these years of suffering? A stifling silence ensued; he found no answer to this question, the question he had asked himself every month when he stood in this exact place, awaiting the agonizing loss of another plume.
The loud noise of locks being opened tore him away from his introspection. Silther turned, watching as the shining, gold-plated door swung open and the little boy stepped through, as always garbed in a crimson robe. The boy walked up close to Silther, fixing the angel with his big, expressionless black eyes that seemed like pools of inscrutable darkness, blocking all attempts to fathom the thoughts that chimed behind them.
"Be free Silther," the boy said, his voice thin and soft.
Silther shivered and backed away, but the boy suddenly reached out and grabbed the feather ... the last one. He smiled at the angel – something he had never before done – and wrenched it out.
A slight tremble ran through Silther's body. The bare room and the bleak-faced boy were swept away from his vision. He saw the stars, so many of them, calling for him, beckoning to him. A rush of elevation streamed through him. How blind he had been! He suddenly understood why he had been forced to undergo these terrible years of hurt: not because he had failed, but because the Father loved him, he loved him for his clarity, purity and loyalty. He had shortened Silther's journey to freedom: every feather torn out had been another century less on Earth and another century closer to the Wholeness ... that sparkling Wholeness in the skies, to which Silther now flew, to be one with Him.