The Increasing of Necessity
The tyrannical ruler of Turkestan was listening to the tales of a dervish one evening, when he bethought himself of asking about Khidr.
“Khidr,” said the dervish, “comes in response to need. Seize his coat when he appears, and all-knowledge is yours.”
“Can this happen to anyone?” asked the king.
“Anyone capable,” said the dervish.
“Who more ‘capable’ than I?” thought the king, and he published a proclamation:
“He who presents to me the Invisible Khidr, the Great Protector of Men, him shall I enrich.”
A poor old man by the name of Bakhtiar Baba, hearing this proclamation cried by the heralds, formed an idea. He said to his wife:
“I have a plan. We shall soon be rich, but a little later I shall have to die. But this does not matter for our riches will leave you well provided for.”
Then Bakhtiar went before the king and told him that he would find Khidr within forty days, if the king would give him a thousand pieces of gold. “If you find Khidr,” said the king, “You shall have ten times this thousand pieces of gold. If you do not, you will die, executed on this very spot as a warning to those who trifle with kings.”
Bakhtiar accepted the conditions. He returned home and gave the money to his wife, as a provision for the rest of her life. The rest of the forty days he spent in contemplation, preparing himself for the other life.
On the fortieth day he went before the king. “Your Majesty,” he said, “your greed caused you to think that money would produce Khidr. But Khidr, as it is related, does not appear in response to something given from a position of greed.”
The king was furious: “Wretch, you have forfeited your life: who are you to trifle with the aspirations of a king?”
Bakhtiar, said: “Legend has it that any man may meet Khidr, but the meeting will be fruitful only in so far as that mans’ intentions are correct. Khidr, they say, would visit you to the extent and for the period that you were worth his while being visited. This is something over which neither you nor I have any control.”
“Enough of this wrangling,” said the king, “for it will not prolong your life. It only remains to ask the ministers assembled here for their advice upon the best way to put you to death.”
He turned to First Wasir and said: “How shall this man die?”
The First Wazir said, “Roast him alive as a warning.”
The Second Wazir, speaking in order of precedence, said: “Dismember him limb from limb.”
The Third Wazir said: Provide him with the necessities of life, instead of forcing him to cheat in order to provide for his family.”
While this discussion was going on, an ancient sage had walked into the assembly hall. As soon as the Third Wazir had spoken, the sage said: “Every man opines in accordance with his permanent hidden prejudices.”
“What do you mean?” asked the king.
“I mean, that the First Wazir was originally a baker, so he speaks in terms of roasting. The Second Wazir used to be a butcher, so he talks about dismemberment. The Third Wazir, having made a study of statecraft, sees the origin of the matter we are discussing.
“Note two things. First, that Khidr appears and serves each man in accordance with that man’s ability to profit by his coming. Second, that this man, Bakhtiar, whom I name Baba in token of his sacrifices, was driven by despair to do what he did. He increased his necessity and accordingly made me appear to you.”
As they watched, the ancient sage melted before their eyes. Trying to do what Khidr directed, the king gave a permanent allowance to Bakhtiar. The First Two Wazirs were dismissed, and the thousand pieces of gold were returned to the royal treasury by Bakhtiar Baba and his wife.
How the king was able to see Khidr again, and what transpired between them is in the story of the story of the story of the Unseen World.
Bakhtiar Baba is said to have been a Sufi sage who lived a humble and unremarkable life in Khorasan until the events described above.
This tale, attributed also to many other Sufi sheikhs, illustrates the concept of the entwining of human aspiration with another range of being. Khidr is the link between these two spheres.
The title is taken from Jalaludin Rumi’s famous poem: “New organs of perception come into being as a result of necessity. Therefore, O man, increase your necessity, so that you may increase your perception.” ~ Idries Shah, Tales of the Dervishes