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The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time
new edition October 2009

CD available from

originally published by
Barefoot Books Ltd., Bath and Boston, 1993
Kirara, Japan, 1993 (in Japanese)

...a magical, spellbinding book
for children and adults alike




New Vision


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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 has been re-published in the original format by Archive Publishing in 2009 and is available from this publisher and from Amazon.

The story has also been 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:

The story 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, 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.
-----The 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.
-----Emerging 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 all obstacles.
       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.
-----The 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.
-----With 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:

It demonstrates the indivisibility of all life
It indicates the specialness and value of each being's unique gifts
It identifies the love and wisdom in our hearts as the greatest treasure in the world - and the key to our survival
It reveals the courage and commitment required to overcome our destructive patterns and realize our true nature
It firmly establishes the journey toward self-realization as the ultimate contribution one can make to the Earth"

Unknown reviewer-----

"The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time, a 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."

DB Napra Trade Journal

"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.
-----This 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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