Mysticism



The following is adapted from The Message through Inayat Khan. This material was generally taken from talks in the early 1900's. As he was transmitting learning of the "sufi", to the west, some of his expression uses that term.

Mysticism is the essence and the basis of all knowledge, science, art, philosophy, religion and literature. These all come under the heading of "mysticism."

When one traces the origin of medicine, which has developed into the pure science it is today, one will find that its source was in intuition. It is the mystics who have given it to the world. For instance, Avicenna, the great Persian mystic, has contributed more to medicine than any other man in the world history of medicine. We know the meaning of science to be a clear knowledge based on reason and logic; but at the same time, where did it start? Was it by reason and logic? First, there was intuition, then came reason, and finally, logic was applied to it.

Furthermore, in the lower creation, there are no doctors, yet the creatures are their own physicians. The animals know whether they will best be cured by standing in the sun, by bathing in a pool of water, by running in the free air, or by sitting quietly under the shade of a tree. I once knew a sensible dog who used to fast every Thursday. No doubt many people of the east would say he was an incarnation of a Brahmin; but to me, it was a puzzle how the dog knew it was Thursday!

People think a mystic means a dreamer, an impractical person who has no knowledge of worldly affairs. Such a mystic I would call only half a mystic. A mystic, in the full sense of the word, must have balance. He must be as wise in worldly matters as in spiritual things. People have had many misconceptions of what a mystic is. They have called a fortune-teller a mystic, or a medium, a clairvoyant, a visionary. I do not mean that a mystic does not possess all of these qualities, but these qualities do not make a mystic. A real mystic should prove to be an inspired artist, a wonderful scientist, an influential statesman. He should be just as qualified for business, industry, social and political life as is the materially minded man.

When people say to me, "You are a mystic, I thought you would take no notice of this or that," I do not like it. Why should I not take notice of it? I take notice of every little detail, although every little detail does not occupy my mind so much that I take notice of nothing else. It is not necessary to be unconscious of the world while being conscious of God. With our two eyes we see one vision; so we should see both aspects, God and the world, as a clear vision at the same time. It is difficult, but not impossible.

Mysticism is an outlook on life. Things which seem real to the average person are unreal in the eyes of the mystic. Things that seem unreal in the eyes of the average person are real in the eyes of the mystic.

For the mystic, God is the source and goal of all, God is all and all is God. However, a real mystic does not say, as an intellectual student of philosophy does, "I do not believe in God, although I believe in the abstract." Such a man is unpoetic and without an ideal. He may have got hold of some truth, but it is a flower without fragrance. One cannot worship the abstract; no one can communicate with the abstract, give anything to it, or take anything from it. To worship in that way is meaningless. We must have something before us to love, to worship, to adhere to, to look up to, to raise high. It is true if we say, "God is everything and all;" yet, at the same time, from another point of view, "everything" means "nothing." The mystic says, "If you have no God, make one." It is the man without an ideal and without imagination who ignores God. A cup of water is as interesting as the ocean, or perhaps even more so when one is thirsty. A personal God is as important as, or even more important than, the idea of the abstract from which we gain nothing.

We human beings have our limited mind. We can grasp the idea of God inasmuch as we can conceive of God. For instance, we may have a friend whom we love and whom we wish to praise, yet he is above our praise. All we can do is say, "How kind, how good, how patient, or how wonderful is my friend." That is all. Our words cannot make him greater. Our words cannot even express fully what we, ourselves, think of him. All we can do is to make a conception of our friend for our own understanding. It is the same with God. Man cannot comprehend God fully. All he can do is to form a conception of God for himself in order to make comprehensible something that is unlimited.

That is why the mystic does not say, "My realization of God is higher than yours, therefore I keep away from you." I have seen a mystic walking in a religious procession with the peasants, singing hymns with them before an idol of stone. He, himself, was greater than the god in the procession, and yet he was singing with the same reverence as everybody else. He never had any desire to show that his belief, his realization, was higher or greater than the realization of the others.

God is not abstract for the mystic. To him, God is a reality. The mystic does not think of God as abstract, although he knows God to be so. It is not a question of knowing, but of being. God, for the mystic, is the stepping-stone to self-realization. He is the gate, He is the door, the entrance to the heavens. God, for the mystic, is a key with which to open the secret of life, the abode from whence he comes, to which he returns, and where he finds himself at home.

Once a western seeker of truth went to a sage in China and said to him, "I have come to learn from you what truth is." The sage said, "Many of your missionaries come to us here and teach your faith. Why do you come to me?" "Well," he said, "what they teach about is God. We know about God; but now I come to you to ask you about the mystery of life." The sage said, "If you know God, then that is all there is to be known, there is nothing more. That is all the mystery there is."

There is the question of the mystic’s conception of Christ. Do we not know that one person is better than another, and is it not true that God is in man? If that is true, the mystic says, what objection is there if one person calls Christ God, and if the other believes Christ to be man? If God is in man, then if Christ is called God, what does it matter? And if Christ is called man, it only raises man, whom God has created, to that stature. Both have their reasons, and both are right; yet they oppose each other.

Some object to Christ being called divine; but if divinity is not sought in man, then in what shall we seek God? Can divinity be found in the tree, in the plant, in the stone? Yes indeed, God is in all; but at the same time, it is in man that divinity is awakened, that God is awakened, that God can be seen.

The tolerance of the mystic is different. The people of a certain nation, race or religion may say, "In Jesus Christ, we see the Lord." Under that name, they recognize their ideal. People of other countries have seen their divine ideal in Buddha. For their consolation and in support of their ideal, they can all find in history the name of someone who has once existed. The Muslim says that Mohammad is the object of his worship, the Hindu says Krishna. As long as they have not realized the spirit of their ideal, then they will dispute, quarrel, and fight. They will say, "My teacher is great," "Mine is greater still." But they do not see that it is one and the same spirit, manifesting in greater excellence. We exalt the teacher to the extent that we have understood him, but we do not exalt him enough if we call him by a certain name and thus limit him to a certain part of the world. However, when we see the unlimited we can call him by all names and say, "You are Krishna, you are Christ, and you are Buddha," just as the loving mother can call her child, "my prince." She can give the most beautiful names to her child.

Once four little girls were disputing. One said, "My mother is better than yours." The second girl said, "My mother is better than your mother." So, they were arguing and being quite disagreeable to one another. But someone who was passing by said to them, "It is not your mother or their mother, it is THE mother who is always the best. It is the mother quality, her love and affection for her children." This is the point of view of the mystic in regard to the divine ideal.

The moral principle of the mystic is the love principle. He says, "The greater your love, the greater your moral. If we are forced to be virtuous according to a certain principle, a certain regulation, certain laws or rules, then that is not real virtue. It must come from the depths of our heart; our own heart must teach us the true moral." Thus, the mystic leaves morality to the deepening of the heart quality. The mystic says that the more loving someone’s heart is, the greater is his morality.

There is no greater teacher of morals than love itself, for the first lesson that one learns from love is, "I am not, you are." This is self-denial, self-abnegation, without which we cannot take the first step on love’s path. One may claim to be a great lover, to be a great admirer, to be very affectionate, but it all means nothing as long as the thought of self is there, for there is no love. But when the thought of self is removed, then every action, every deed that one performs in life, becomes a virtue. It cannot be otherwise. A loving person cannot be unjust, a loving person cannot be cruel. Even if what he does seems wrong in the eyes of a thousand people, it cannot be wrong in reality. In reality, it will be right, for it is inspired by love.

What is religion to the mystic? The religion of the mystic is a steady progress towards unity. How does he make this progress? In two ways. In the first way, he sees himself in others, in the good, in the bad, in all; and thus, he expands the horizon of his vision. This study goes on throughout his lifetime; and, as he progresses, he comes closer to the oneness of all things. The other way of developing is to become conscious of one’s own self in God and of God in one’s self, which means deepening the consciousness of our innermost being. This process takes place in two directions: outwardly, by being one with all we see; and inwardly, by being in touch with that one Life which is everlasting, by dissolving into it and by being conscious of that one Spirit being THE existence, the only existence.

The law of the mystic is the understanding of the law. The average man says, "This person has got the better of me. I will show him!" The mystic’s outlook is different. He believes that no one can get away with anything in this world without paying for it. For every gain, the food one eats, every drop one drinks, every breath of air one takes, there is a tax to be paid. One is continually paying, and yet one does not know it. This shows that behind it all there is a perfect justice working. One cannot get the slightest comfort and pleasure without having to pay for it, and every pain has its own reward, though few seem to realize this. Therefore, behind all this falsehood and injustice, we see that there is a perfect wisdom working continually, day and night. The mystic sees it in everything with open eyes; and that is the great miracle. For in the first place, the mystical life is a puzzle; in the second place, a bewilderment; and in the third place, a miracle.

It is a puzzle when the law is not understood, a very interesting puzzle. There is no better game than to be occupied with that puzzle, to try to understand it, to solve it. It is so interesting that there is no sport or game that can be compared with it. It is a bewilderment because of the difference between the way everybody looks at life and how it is in reality. There comes a stage when a person says, "Either they are all mad, or I am mad; but someone must be mad!"

The mystic can see from the point of view of everyone else, as well as from his own, which may be quite the contrary. For instance, in his teachings, Christ says, "If anyone asks you for your coat, give him your overcoat, also." A worldly man will say, "It is not practical; if someone asked this of me every day, I would be continually buying new coats!" Yet, at the same time, it is more than practical from the point of view of the Master. For, according to his view, we cannot give anything, in whatever form, without getting it back in some way or other. Pure thought, good will, our service, our time, whatever we give, is never lost. It comes back to us according to our willingness to give, it comes back to us a thousandfold. That is why one is never the loser by being generous; one only gains.

The mystic sees the law in all things, and this gives him an insight into life. He begins to see why this misery has come upon him, why that pleasure has come; why one person is prospering and another not, why one is progressing and not another. All these things become clear to him because he sees the law working in all things. The law of the mystic is not the law of the people. It is the law of nature; it is the real law.

A mystic never restricts himself to a certain rule, such as a rule of celibacy, although for certain experiences, celibacy is of great importance. However, if it is necessary for him to fast, practice celibacy, live on a vegetarian diet or stay in a remote place in seclusion, or any other such thing, he can prescribe it for himself and benefit from it. But one cannot say a mystic MUST do this or that, or that he must live a certain life.

Solomon, with his kingdom and all his grandeur, was as great a mystic and as wise a man as many hermits in the forest. One cannot judge a mystic by his appearance. If he is a real mystic, he will be a king, whether he is in the midst of the treasures of a court, or sitting clad in a ragged mantle. He is a king, just the same, wherever he is. Neither money, nor a court, nor life in the world, can take away his kingship from him. If he chooses to live in solitude, it is his own affair. If he wishes to be in the crowd, he may just as well be there. Whether a person sits in a remote place in the forest or in a baker’s shop, if he is thinking of a high ideal, his surroundings cannot touch him; he does not see them. There is no aspect of life that can deprive a mystic of his mystical spirit. He may be rich or poor, in the midst of the world or away from everything, but he is a mystic, just the same.

The way to perfection for the mystic is by the annihilation of the false ego. He understands that in man, there is a real ego, that this ego is divine, but that the divine ego is covered by a false ego; and every man has a false ego because it begins to grow from his birth. Man develops in himself a false idea, and that false idea is identification with something that he calls himself. He says, "I am a professor, a lawyer, a barrister, a doctor;" or, "I am a king, a lord, or something." But whatever he claims, he is not that. His claim may be humble or proud; but, in reality, he is not that. The mystic on the spiritual path perseveres in wiping out this false ego as much as he can, by meditation, by concentration, by prayer, by study, by everything that he does. His one aim is to wipe out so much that one day reality, which is always there buried under the false ego, may manifest.

By calling on the Name of God, in the form of prayer, or in zikr, or in any other form, what the mystic does is to awaken the spirit of the real ego, in order that it may manifest. It is just like a spring that rises up out of the rock and that, as soon as the water has gained power and strength, breaks even through stone and becomes a stream. So it is with the divine spark in man. Through concentration, through meditation, it breaks out and manifests; and where it manifests, it washes away the stains of the false ego and turns into a greater and greater stream. This in turn becomes the source of comfort, consolation, healing and happiness for all who come into contact with that spirit.

The Mystic

Mysticism is neither a faith, nor a belief. Neither is it a principle or a dogma. A mystic is born. Being a mystic means having a certain temperament, a certain outlook on life. It is for this reason that many are confused by the word "mystic," because mysticism cannot be explained in plain words.

To a mystic, impulse has divine significance. In every impulse a mystic sees the divine direction. What people call "free will" is something that does not exist for the mystic. He sees one plan, working and making its way towards a desired result; and every person, whether willingly or unwillingly, contributes towards the accomplishment of that plan. This contribution to the plan is considered by one to be "free will," and by another, to be "accident." The one who feels, "This is my impulse, this is my idea, this I must bring into action," only knows of the idea from the moment it has become manifest to his view. He therefore calls it free will. But from whence did that idea come to him? Where does impulse come from? It comes, directly or indirectly, from within. Sometimes it may seem to come from outside; but it always starts from within. Thus, every impulse for a mystic is a divine impulse. One may ask, why is not every impulse divine for everybody, since every impulse has its origin within? It is because not everybody knows it to be so. The divine part of the impulse is in realizing it is divine. The moment we are conscious of the divine origin of the impulse, from that moment on, it is divine. Although all through life it has come from within, it is the fact of knowing that makes it divine.

A mystic removes the barrier that stands between himself and another person by trying to look at life not only from his own point of view, but also from the point of view of another. All disputes and disagreements arise from people’s misunderstanding of each other. Mostly, people misunderstand each other because they have their fixed points of view and are not willing to move from them. This is a rigid condition of mind. The more dense a person is, the more fixed he is in his own points of view. Therefore, it is easy to change the mind of an intelligent person, but it is most difficult to change the mind of a foolish person once it is fixed. It is this dense quality of mind which becomes fixed on a certain idea and that clouds the eyes so that they cannot see from the point of view of another person.

Many fear that by looking at things from the point of view of someone else, they lose their own point of view; but I would rather lose my own point of view, if it was a wrong one. Why must one stick to one’s point of view simply because it is one’s own? And why should it be one’s own point of view and not all points of view, the point of view of one and the same Spirit? For, just as two eyes are needed to make the sight complete, and two ears are necessary to make the hearing complete, so it is the understanding of two points of view, the opposite points of view, which gives a fuller insight into life.

A mystic calls this "unlearning." What we call "learning," is fixing ideas in our mind. This learning is not freeing the soul, it is limiting the soul. By this, I do not mean to say that learning has no place in life, but only that learning is not all that is needed on the spiritual path. There is something else, besides, there is something beyond learning; and to this, we can only attain by unlearning. Learning is just like making knots of ideas, and the thread is not smooth as long as the knots are there. They must be unraveled; and when the thread is smooth, one can treat it in any way one likes. A mind with knots cannot have a smooth circulation of truth. The ideas which are fixed in one’s mind block it. A mystic, therefore, is willing to see from all points of view in order to clarify his knowledge. It is that willingness which is called "unlearning."

The sense of understanding is one and the same for all of us. If we are willing to understand, then understanding is within our reach. Very often, however, we are not willing to understand, and that is why we do not understand. Mankind suffers from a sort of stubbornness. A man goes against what he thinks is coming from another person. Yet, everything he has learned has come from others, he has not learned one word from himself. All the same, he calls it his argument, his idea, and his view, although it is no such thing. He has always taken it from somewhere. It is by accepting this fact that a mystic understands all, and it is this which makes him a friend of all.

A mystic does not look at reasons as everybody else does because he sees that the first reason that comes to his mind is only a cover over another reason that is hidden behind it. He has patience, therefore, to wait until he has lifted the veil from the first reason until he sees the reason behind it. Then, again, he sees that this reason which was hidden behind the first reason is more powerful, but that there is still a greater reason behind it. And so, he goes from one reason to another, and sees in reason nothing but a veil to cover reality. As he goes farther, penetrating the several veils of reason, he reaches the essence of reason. By touching the essence, he sees the reason in everything, good and bad.

Compare a mystic with an average person who argues and disputes, fights and quarrels, over the first reason, which is nothing but a cover. Compare the two. The one is ready to form an opinion, to praise and to condemn, while the other patiently waits until reality gradually unfolds itself. A mystic believes in the unknown and unseen, not only in the form of God, but in the unknown that is to come, the unseen that is not yet seen. Whereas the other has no patience to wait until he knows the unknown, until he sees the unseen. A mystic does not urge the knowledge of the unknown or unseen upon another, but sees the hand of the unknown working through all things. For instance, if a mystic has the impulse to go out and walk towards the north, he thinks there must be some purpose in it. He does not think it is only a whim, a foolish fancy, although the reason for it he does not know. But he will go to the north, and he will try to find the purpose of his going there in the result that comes from it.

The whole life of the mystic is mapped on this principle, and it is by this principle that he can arrive at the stage where his impulse becomes a voice from within that tells him, "Go here," "Go there," "Leave," "Move," or "Stay." Therefore, while others are prepared to explain why they are doing something or going somewhere or what they wish to do, the mystic cannot explain because he, himself, does not know. Yet, he knows more than the person who is ready to answer why he is going and what he is going to accomplish, for what does man know about what will happen to him? He makes his program and plans, but he does not know.

Man proposes, and God disposes. Many say this every day; yet, at the same time, they make their programs and lay out their plans. A mystic is not particular about it. He is working on the plan which is laid out already and he knows that there is a plan. He may not know the plan in detail; but if anyone can and will know the plan, it is the mystic. This, again, tells us something: the one who knows little, knows most; and those who seem to know more, know least.

The outlook of the mystic is like that of a man standing on a mountaintop and looking at the world from a great height. If a mystic looks upon everyone as being not much different, one from another, because they are all like children to him, then it is like what we see from the top of a mountain. All people, whether tall or short, seem to be of the same size; they appear like little beings moving about. An average man is frightened of truth in the same way that a person who has never been to a great height gets frightened at the sight of the immensity of space. The truth is immense; and when a person reaches the top of understanding, he becomes frightened and he does not want to look at it.

Many have told me, "Eastern philosophy interests us very much, but the concept of ‘nirvana’ is very frightening." I have answered, "Yes, it is frightening. Truth is just the same. Truth is also frightening, but truth is reality." Man is so fond of illusion that he, so to speak, revels in it. If someone awakens a man who is having an interesting dream, that man will say, "Oh, let me sleep on!" He likes looking at his dream. He does not want to wake up to reality because reality is not as interesting as the dream. Thus, amongst seekers of truth, we find only one in a thousand courageous enough to look at the immensity of truth. However, there are many who take an interest in illusion and they are inclined, out of curiosity, to look at mental illusions because these are different from the illusions of the physical life. They are apt to call this "mysticism," but it is not mysticism.

No one can be a mystic and call himself a Christian mystic, a Jewish mystic or a Mohammadan mystic. For what is mysticism? Mysticism is something that erases from one’s mind all ideas of separateness. If a person claims to be this mystic or that mystic, then he is not a mystic, he is only playing with a name.

People say that a mystic is someone who dreams and who lives in the clouds. My answer to this is that the real mystic stands on earth, but his head is in heaven. It is not true that the wise man is not intellectual or that the wise man is not clever. A clever man is not necessarily wise, but the one who has the higher knowledge has no difficulty in gaining knowledge of worldly things. It is the man who has knowledge of worldly things, only, who has great difficulty in absorbing the higher knowledge.

Mr. Ford was very wise when he said to me, "If you had been a businessman, I am sure you would have been successful." Furthermore, he said, "I have tried all my life to solve the problem that you appear to have solved." This, again, gives us an insight into the idea that higher wisdom does not bar a person from having worldly wisdom, though worldly wisdom does not qualify a person to attain to the higher wisdom.

Now, let us come to the mystic’s vision. People think that to see colors, spirits or visions is mystical. But mysticism cannot be restricted to this, and those who see these things are not necessarily mystics. Besides, those who can see and whose vision is clear say so little about it. The mystic will be the last to claim that he sees or does wonderful things. His vision and his power would be diminished as soon as he would begin to feed his vanity by claiming to know or to do things which others cannot know or do. The main thing that the mystic has to accomplish is to get rid of the false ego. So, if he feeds the false ego by claiming such things, then he will lose all of his power, virtue and greatness.

To a mystic, every person is like an open letter, just as to an experienced physician, a person’s face tells of his condition. Yet, a mystic would never say to someone else, "In this person I see this or that." For, the more he knows, the greater trust is put in him by God. He covers all that should be covered, he only says what has to be said. A mystic will know most and yet will act innocently. It is the ones who know little that make a fuss about their knowledge. The more a person knows, the less he shows to others. Besides, a mystic is never ready to correct people for their follies, to condemn them for their errors, or to accuse them of their foolishness. He sees so much of errors, follies and foolishness that he never feels inclined to point them out. He just sees life in its different aspects and understands the process that an individual goes through in life. It is by mistakes and errors that one learns, in the end; and a mystic never feels that he should condemn anyone for errors, as he only feels that they are natural.

Some are advancing rapidly, others are going slowly. Foolishness is just like light and darkness — it is through darkness that the sun rises, and through ignorance that wisdom will rise one day. A mystic, therefore, need not learn patience, for he is taught patience by life, from the beginning until the end. A mystic need not learn tolerance, for his outlook gives him tolerance, it is natural for him. He need not learn forgiveness, for he cannot do anything but forgive.

Man loves complexity and calls it knowledge. A great many societies and institutions in the world which call themselves occult, esoteric and psychic, and by various other names, knowing that everyone is interested in complexity, cover the truth. Instead of covering the truth with one cover, they cover it with a thousand covers to make it more interesting. It is just like the customs that were followed in ancient times, when people came to worship and asked the priest how they should do it, and he would say, "How far do you live from the shrine?" And when they said, "Two miles," he answered, "You must come on foot to the shrine and walk around it a hundred times before you may enter it." He gave them a good exercise before they were allowed to come in. Even today, they do the same thing. When a person says, "I want to see truth," but he wishes to look for truth in complexity, they cover truth under a thousand covers, and then they give him the problem to solve.

Are there not many people interested in the mahatmas of the Himalayas, are there not many interested in the holy souls in remote places of Persia, many who look for a master in the center of Australia? Perhaps next year an article will appear declaring that a great soul has been born in Siberia. What is it all about? It is all the love of complexity, queer notions, strange ideas which do not lead souls any further. Therefore, a mystic very often appears to be simple because sincerity makes him feel inclined to express the truth in simple language and in simple ideas. But because people value complexity, they think that what he says is too simple and that it is something which they have always known, that it is nothing new. However, as Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Besides, truth belongs to the soul and the soul knows it; and as soon as the truth is spoken, the soul recognizes it. It is not new, not foreign to it. If a person says, "This is something I already know," even if his soul has known it, it can never be repeated too often for him. The great saints of the east have repeated one phrase, for instance, "God is One," perhaps a million times in their lives. Should we believe that they were so foolish as to not be able to understand the meaning of it by saying it once? Why, then, do they repeat it a million times? The reason is that it is never enough. We live in the midst of illusion, from morning till evening, when we go to sleep. What we do not know is the illusion in which we are from morning till evening. It is not the truth we do not know; truth is all we know — if we know anything fully. The mystic, therefore, instead of learning truth, instead of looking for truth, wishes to maintain truth. He wishes to cling to the idea of truth, to keep the vision of reality before him, lest it be covered by the thousand veils of illusion.

Does the mystic make any effort to reach the highest realization? Yes. It is an art that is passed on from teacher to pupil. This art is handed down through the ages, from one person to another. One might ask, "Why, if truth is within oneself, is there any necessity for such an art? After all, art is not nature. The animals and birds do not need an art, they are happy, they are peaceful, they are innocent; they are spiritual, really spiritual. They live in nature, their lives are natural." The answer is, we live far away from nature, we have made our artificial world to live in, and that is why we require an art to free ourselves from it. I do not mean to say that we must abandon life, or that we must not have anything to do with life in order to be mystics; however, we have to practice that art which enables us to get in touch with reality.

That art is, in the first place, concentration. Concentration does not mean closing the eyes and sitting in church on Sunday. Many know how to close their eyes and sit there, yet their mind wanders about, especially when they have closed their eyes. Concentration means that every atom of the body and of the mind is centered in one spot.

The next step is contemplation; that is, to be able to retain an idea which raises one’s consciousness from the dense world. The third stage is meditation, and that is to purify oneself, to free oneself, and to open oneself to the light of truth in order that it may abide in one’s spirit.

The fourth step is realization. Then the mystic is no longer the knower of truth, but is truth, itself.

Realization

There is one God and one truth, one religion and one mysticism. Call it Sufism or Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism, whatever you wish. As God cannot be divided, so mysticism cannot be divided.

It is an error when a person says, "My religion is different from yours." He does not know what religion means. Neither can there be many mysticisms, just as there cannot be many wisdoms; there is only one wisdom. It is an error of mankind to say, "This is eastern and that is western." This only shows lack of wisdom.

It is the same divine truth that man inherits, no matter to what part of the world he belongs. To distinguish between occultism and mysticism is also an error, just as it would be an error to say of one’s eyes, "This is my eye and that is your eye." The two eyes belong to one soul. When a person pictures mysticism as one branch of a tree which is truth, he is wrong in thinking it to be a branch; for mysticism is the stem which unites all branches. Mysticism is the way by which to realize the truth. Jesus Christ said, "I am the Way and the Truth." He did not say, "I am the Ways and the Truths," for there is only one way, and any other way would be the wrong way. Many religions there are, but not many wisdoms; many houses of the Lord for worship, but only one God; many scriptures, but only one truth. So, there are many methods, but only one way.

The methods of gaining that realization are many, but there are four principal ones: by the heart, by the head, by action, and by repose. A person must choose from amongst these four different methods of developing himself and preparing himself to journey on the way, the only way, which is called mysticism. No religion can call it its own, but it is the way of all religions. No church can say that it owns it, for it belongs to all churches. No one can say that his is the only way. It is the same way as all others have to go.

People have often imagined that a mystic means an ascetic, someone who dreams, a person who lives in the air, someone who does not dwell here on the earth, a person who is not practical; or a hermit. These are not the case. Very often, people think of the mystic as a peculiar sort of man, and if they meet someone who is peculiar, they say that he must be a mystic! This is a wrong conception, an exaggeration, for a real mystic must show equilibrium, balance. He will have his head in the heavens, but his feet will be on the earth. The real mystic is as wide awake in this world as in the other. A mystic is not someone who dreams. He is wide awake; yet he is capable of dreaming when others are not and of keeping awake when the rest cannot do so. A mystic strikes the balance between two things: power and beauty. He does not sacrifice power for beauty, nor beauty for power. He possesses power and enjoys beauty.

There are no restrictions in the life of the mystic. Everything there shows balance, reason, love, and harmony. The religion of the mystic is every religion, yet he is above what people call their religion. In point of fact, he IS religion, and his moral is that of all religions: reciprocity, to reciprocate all the kindness we receive from others, to do an act of kindness to others without wanting any appreciation or return for it, and to make every sacrifice, however great, for love, harmony, and beauty.

The God of the mystic is to be found in his own heart. The truth of the mystic is beyond words. People argue and debate about things of little importance, but mysticism is not to be discussed. People want to talk in order to know, and then they forget it all. Very often, it is not the one who knows who talks so much, but the one who wants to know. The one who knows, but does not discuss, is the mystic. He knows that happiness is in his own heart; but to put this into words is like putting the ocean into a drop of water.

Yet, there is a wine which the mystic drinks, and that wine is ecstasy. A wine so powerful that the presence of the mystic becomes as wine for everyone who comes into his presence. This wine is the wine of the real sacrament, whose symbol is found in the church. What is it, where does it come from, what is it made of? It may be called power, life, a strength that comes through the mystic, through the spheres which every man is attached to. By his attachment to these spheres, the mystic drinks the wine which is the sustenance of the human soul, and that wine is ecstasy, the mystic’s intoxication. That intoxication is the love which manifests in the human heart. What does it matter, once a mystic has drunk that wine, whether he is sitting amongst the rocks in the wilderness, or in a palace? It is all the same. The palace does not deprive him of the mystic’s pleasures, and neither does the rock take them away. He has found the kingdom of God on earth, about which Jesus Christ said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you."

People strive for many different things in this world, but last of all, they seek the spiritual path. Some indifferent ones say, "There is a long life before us, and when the time comes that I must awaken, I shall wake up." But the mystic knows that this is the one thing he must attend to and that all other things come after that. It is of the greatest importance in his life.

Should he, by working for realization of God, neglect his duties in the world? It is not necessary. There is nothing that a mystic need renounce in order to have the realization of life. He only needs to attach the greatest importance to what is most important in life.

The life of a mystic is meditative; but, to him, meditation is like the winding of a clock. It is wound for only a moment, yet all day long it goes by itself. He does not have to think about it all day long. He does not trouble about it.

A shah of Persia used to sit up at night for his vigils and prayers. A friend who was visiting him wondered at his long meditations after a whole day’s work. "It is too much," he said, "you do not need so much meditation." "Do not say so," was the answer. "You do not know. For at night I pursue God, and during the day God follows me." The moments of meditation set the whole mechanism in running order, like a stream running into the ocean. They do not in the least keep the mystic from his duty; they only bless every word he speaks with the thought of God. In all he thinks or does, there is the perfume of God that becomes a healing and a blessing. And if one asks how a mystic, who has become so kind and helpful, gets on amongst the crowd in everyday life, since the rough edges of everyday life rubbing against him must necessarily make him heartsore; the answer is that they certainly do, and the heart of the mystic is even more sore than that of anybody else. Where there is only kindness and patience, all the thorns will come. But just as the diamond, by being cut, becomes brilliant, so does the heart. When the heart has been sufficiently cut it becomes a flame that illuminates not only the life of the mystic, but also that of others.

The Nature & Work of a Mystic

There is a difference between a philosopher, a wise man, a mystic, and a sage. From a mystical point of view, the philosopher is a person who knows the nature and character of things and beings, who has studied this, who has reasoned it out, who understands it. A wise man is he who has been the pupil of life. Life has been his teacher; and its sorrows, troubles and experiences have brought him to a certain understanding of life. A mystic, however, need not have had experience of life to teach him nor the study of life to make him intellectual enough to understand it better. The mystic is born with the mystical temperament. His language is a different language, his experience is a different experience. He, so to speak, communicates with life, with conditions, things, and beings. However, the sage has all three of these qualities. The sage is a philosopher, a wise man, a mystic, all three combined.

It is possible that a mystic may not be a philosopher. Though the mystic always has a clear vision and understanding, he may not have the philosopher’s means of expression. The difference is like that between short sight and long sight. The mystic may not see the outline of things distinctly, a philosopher may observe only the details, while the wise man may not be a philosopher but he has learned wisdom from life. The wise man may be different from the mystic, as well.

Yet, when they arrive at the stage of the culmination of knowledge they all come closer together. For instance, I was once talking to a businessman, a man who had spent nearly 50 years of his life in commerce and had made a success of it. He had never believed in any religion, he had never studied any philosophy, except that sometimes he read the works of great poets. But after we had talked for about an hour on subjects concerning the inner life, he discovered that he was not very far from my own beliefs. He said that after all, the patience which is required to make money, the sacrifices one has to make in order to be successful, and the experiences one has to go through with those whom he works in daily business, had been, for him, both a practice and a study. I found that he was not very far from the conclusions of the wise man, the philosopher and the mystic. It is he whom I would call a wise man; for, by his wisdom, he had reached that truth which is studied by the philosopher and attained by the mystic, through meditation.

The meaning of philosophy has changed in modern times. People generally understand philosophy as that which one finds in books written by European philosophers, which are read and studied at universities. But spiritual philosophy is different; it is a different kind of knowledge, an understanding of the origin, nature, and character of things and beings. It necessitates the study of human nature, the study of conditions of life. It is the deeper insight into life which makes one a philosopher.

Mysticism is neither taught, nor learned. A mystic is born; it is a temperament, it is a certain outlook on life, a certain attitude towards life that makes a man a mystic. His chief characteristic is that he knows the meaning of every action, whether it is by intuition or by accident, although to a mystic, nothing is an accident. Every action, every condition, everything that happens, has a meaning and a purpose. Very often, people find that a mystic has a queer temperament. He may suddenly think during the night, "I must go to the north," and in the morning, he sets out on his journey. He does not know why, he does not know what he is to accomplish there, he only knows that he must go. By going there, he finds something that he has to do and sees that it was the hand of destiny pushing him towards the accomplishment of that purpose which inspired him to go to the north. Or, a mystic will tell a person to do or not do a thing. If that person asks the reason, he cannot tell him. His feeling comes by intuition, a knowledge that comes from the world unseen; and according to that knowledge, he acts. Therefore, the mystic’s impulse is a divine impulse, and one can judge neither his action, nor his attitude. One will find that there are various aspects of the mystic temperament.

But there is a knowledge which a mystic attains by means of the head and which prepares him to find his way to the truth. Reasoning is a faculty which the mystic uses and which he may develop like any man of common sense, any practical man. The difference is only that the mystic does not stop at the first reason, but wishes to see the reason behind all reasons. Thus, in everything, whether right or wrong, the mystic seeks for the reason. The immediate answer, however, will be a reason that does not satisfy him, for he sees that behind that reason there is yet another reason. So, he progresses in the knowledge of all things, which is far greater than the knowledge gained by one thing. This is why neither wrong nor right, good nor evil, excites the mystic very much. Neither does it greatly shock or surprise him. For everything seems to him to have its own nature, and it is understanding this which makes him feel at one with all that exists. What can one wish for more in life than understanding? It is understanding that gives one harmony in the home with those near and dear to one, and peace outside the home with so many different natures and characters. If one lacks understanding, then one is poor, in spite of all that one may possess of the goods of this world, for it is understanding which gives a man riches.

If life could be pictured, one would say that it reminds one of the sea in a storm, the waves coming and going — such is life. It is the understanding of this which gives man the weight which enables him to endure through rain, storm and all vicissitudes. Without understanding, he is like a jolly-boat on the sea which cannot weather the storm. Through understanding, a mystic learns. He learns tact; he is tactful under all circumstances, and his tact is like a heavily laden ship that the wind cannot capsize, riding steady in the midst of the storm.

The nature of life is such that it easily excites the mind and makes man unhappy in an instant. It makes man so confused that he does not know where to take the next step. In contrast with this, the mystic stands still and inquires of life its secret; and from every experience, from every failure or success, the mystic learns a lesson. Thus, both failure and success are profitable to him.

The ideal of a mystic is never to think of disagreeable things. What one does not want to happen one should not think about. A mystic erases from his mind all the disagreeable things of the past. He collects and keeps his happy experiences, and out of them, he makes a paradise. Are there not many unhappy people who keep part of the past before them, causing them pain in their heart? Past is past; it is gone. There is eternity before us. If we want to make our life as we wish it to be, we should not think disagreeable thoughts and ponder over painful experiences and memories that make us unhappy.

It is for this reason that, to some extent, life becomes easy for the mystic to deal with. For he knows every heart, every nature. Those who are untouched by the mystic’s secret suffer from their difficulties, both at home and outside. They dread the presence of people they do not understand; they want to run away from them. And if they cannot escape, they feel as if they are in the mouth of a dragon, and perhaps they are placed in a situation that cannot easily be changed. The consequence is that they heap confusion upon confusion. How very often one sees that when two people do not understand one another, a third comes and helps them to do so, and the light thrown upon them causes greater harmony! The mystic says that whether it be agreeable or disagreeable, if you are in a certain situation, make the best of it and try to understand how to deal with such a situation. A life without such understanding is like a dark room which contains everything you wish — it is all there, but there is no light.

The world is, after all, a wonderful place, in spite of so many souls wishing to leave it. For there is nothing that cannot be obtained in this world. Everything is there, all things good and beautiful, all things precious and worthwhile. They are all there, if only one knows their nature, their character and how to attain them.

If you ask some people what is the nature of life, they will say, "The farther we go in striving for happiness, the farther we are removed from it." This is true. But the one who does not know that unhappiness does not really exist takes the wrong way. Besides, happiness is more natural than unhappiness, as good is more natural than evil, and health than illness. Yet, man is so pessimistic. If we tell him how good someone is, he cannot believe this to be true; but if we tell him how bad a person is, he will readily believe it.

The work of a mystic, therefore, is to study life. To the mystic, life is not a stage play or an entertainment. For the mystic, life is a school in which to learn, every moment of one’s life. It is a continual study. And the scripture of the mystic is human nature. Every morning he turns a new page of this scripture. The books of the great ones who have brought the Message to the world from time to time, which became sacred scriptures and were read for thousands of years, generations of people taking their spiritual food from them — are the interpretations that they gave of this scripture which is human nature. That is why all the sacred scriptures always have the same sacred feeling.

The mystic respects all religions, and he understands all the different and contradictory ideas, for he understands everyone’s language. The mystic can agree, without having to dispute, with both the wise and the foolish. For he sees that the nature of facts is such that they are true in their own place and he understands every aspect of their nature. The mystic sees from every point of view. He sees from the point of view of each person, and that is why he is harmonious with all. A man comes to a mystic and says, "I cannot believe in a personal God, it means nothing to me." Then, the mystic answers, "You are quite right." Another man says, "The only way of making God intelligible is in the form of man." The mystic says, "You are right." And another person says, "How foolish of these people to make of this man a God; God is above comprehension." And the mystic will agree with him, too. For a mystic understands the reason behind all the opposing arguments.

Once a missionary came to a Sufi in Persia, desiring to have a discussion and to prove his opinion on some Sufi teaching. The Sufi was sitting there in his silent, quiet attitude, with two or three of his pupils at his side. The missionary brought up some arguments, and the mystic answered, "You are right." Then the man went on to dispute, but the Sufi only said, "That is quite true." The man was very disappointed, as there was no opportunity for argument. The Sufi saw the truth in all.

The truth is like a piano. The notes may be high or low, one may strike a C or an E, but they are all notes. So, the difference between ideas is like that between notes. It is the same in daily life with the right and the wrong attitude. If we have the wrong attitude, then all things are wrong. If we have the right attitude, then all things are right. The man who mistrusts himself will mistrust even his best friend. The man who trusts himself will trust everyone.

Things which seem to be apart, such as right and wrong, light and darkness, form and shadow, to the mystic appear so close that only a hair’s breadth divides right and wrong. Before the mystic, there opens an outlook on life, an outlook that discloses the purpose of life. The question the mystic puts to himself is, "Which is my being? The body? No. This body is my possession. I cannot be that which I possess." He asks himself, "Is it my mind?" The answer comes, "No. The mind is something I possess, it is something I witness. There must be a difference between the knower and the known." By this method, the Sufi eventually comes to an understanding of the illusory character of all he possesses. It is like a man who has a coat made. It is his coat, but it is not himself.

Then the mystic begins to think, "It is not myself who thinks, it is the mind. It is the body which suffers, not myself." It is a kind of liberation for him to know, "I am not my mind." For an ordinary man wonders why one moment he has a good thought, another moment a bad thought; one moment an earthly thought, the next moment a thought of heaven. Life for him is like a moving picture in which it is he who sees and it is he who is dancing there.

By seeing this, the mystic liberates his real self, which owing to his illusion, was buried under mind and body — what people call a "lost soul," a soul who was not aware of the mystical truth that body and mind are the vehicles by which to experience life. It is in this way that the mystic begins his journey towards immortality.

The Secret of the Spirit

There are four different explanations of the word "spirit." One meaning is, "essence." Spirit of camphor means, "the essence of camphor." The second meaning of spirit is what is understood by those who call the soul "spirit" when it has left the body on earth and passed to the other side. The third meaning of spirit is that of the soul and mind working together. It is used in this sense when one says that a man seems to be in low spirits. This means that both his mind and soul are depressed, although one may not always define it in this way. The fourth meaning of spirit is the soul of all souls, the source and goal of all things and all beings from which all comes and to which all returns.

The first meaning of the word spirit is, as I have said, essence. The essence of flowers is honey, the essence of milk is butter, the essence of grapes is wine, the essence of learning is wisdom. Therefore, wisdom is a sweet as honey, as nourishing as butter, and as exalting as wine.

To rise above things in life, one must try to get to the essence. In other words, there is one way of listening to a musician, and that is to consider the form, the technique. The other way is to grasp the feeling, the sense that the music suggests. So it is with life. We can look at life in one way, see it in different forms, and make a rigid conception of it. Or, we can see it so that we get the suggestion of its essence.

For instance, a person may come to us and express a thousand false feelings. Then we go over it in our mind and realize it was all false because it could not be reasonably true. This is one way. The other way is to see immediately that it was false, from first to last, without going into details. This is quite sufficient; and because we have immediately seen it, we have saved our mind a great deal of trouble.

Sometimes a person says to another, "You say you are my friend; all right, I am going to find out what you are like and how you work." That is one way of looking at it. But the other way is to look only once at that person and, by that one glance, to know what he is worth, that is all. If one can do this, it will make one brave and venturesome and will bring one nearer to the essence. It will impart generosity and liberality. Otherwise, one remains narrow, small and confused; and in this way, thousands and millions of souls are buffeted along on the sea of life, not knowing where they are going because they are not sure of themselves. If a person says, "I don’t know you, but perhaps I will know you someday," that person will never know anyone, for all his life he will be unsure.

As to the second meaning of the word "spirit," this mechanism of the physical body, which works from morning till evening without winding like a machine, and which stands up to all the turmoil of life, encounters all difficulties and endures everything that comes to it — one day falls flat. It is just like when the steam or electricity, or whatever it was that kept the machine going, suddenly gives out. A physician says that the man’s heart has failed, or that his blood pressure was too high, or something like that, as an explanation of his death. It means that a person who was active and sensitive is no longer active or sensitive. That which was most important in him has left. So much the physician can tell you, but what was there he does not know.

From the point of view of a mystic, however, what left the body was the person. This body was not the person. This body was a mask which covered that person. When this mask is cast off, that visible person becomes invisible. Not he, himself, but only the mask has been thrown away. He is what he already was. If death comes, it is the removing of the mask.

A question arises as to how this occurs. The answer is that there is a magnetic action between the person and the mask. It is the strength of the physical body that holds the spirit, and it is the strength of the spirit that holds the body. The physical body holds onto the spirit because it only lives by the life of the spirit; and without the spirit, it is dead. As every being, however small, struggles for life, this physical body tries to hold onto the spirit. It does so to the last, as someone who is on the point of losing his gold might hold it tightly in his hand until his hand is paralyzed and he can no longer hold it, so lets it drop. This does not mean that he does not want it; it only means that he cannot hold it any longer. So it is with the spirit. As long as the spirit is interested in the physical body, it holds it, permeates it and embraces it. But as soon as it feels that it does not want it anymore, that it no longer has any use for the body, it drops it.

Both these tendencies can be seen in people when they are studied by those who understand. There are people who have reached old age who are no longer doing anything in the world, yet each atom of their body is consciously or unconsciously holding onto the spirit in order to live every moment they can possibly prolong of their life. And as long as their strength allows them to hold onto the spirit, they live; and they may live to a very great age. But one can also notice another tendency, and that is that there are some who are tired of life. They no longer attach any importance to this life on earth. The value of things has diminished in their eyes; they are disappointed by these transitory and changeable conditions. In their spirit, they are feeling something quite different from the other type of person. Their tendency is to give up the physical bondage of the body, and they would be glad if the spirit were separated from it. Yet their body unconsciously clings to the spirit, just the same, and keeps them alive as long as it can hold on. Thus, the unwilling spirit is held by the body.

In conclusion, death means a separation from the body, which is nothing but a garb covering the spirit. What follows after the separation? The body, which is left on the earth by the spirit, is no longer living, in the sense that we understand life, yet it is living. It is as if there had been a fire in the stove, and even after the fire was extinguished, the warmth remained there. There is only the smallest degree of spirit, but there is life in it. Where there is no life, life cannot be created. Life must come out of life. Life cannot come out of death. Living creatures such as worms and germs come out of a dead body, and how could life come out if there were no life there? There is life; not in the sense that we generally understand it, but it is living, just the same. There is nothing in this world of which we can say that it is without life, or dead. Everything, every object that seems without life, has some life somewhere. Even after it is destroyed, it is still living. When germs and worms manifest out of a dead body, we think that it means it is finished. On the contrary, it goes on, life is continued in various forms. It has never ended. What has ended is this imprisonment which we recognized as such and such a person; but the existence is still going on, even the mortal existence, even the mask which, in reality, was nothing.

The living part was the spirit, and it goes on living. When we say, "He has gone to the other world," the other world is only our conception, though it is a beautiful conception. If one says, for instance, that a great revolution is taking place in the scientific world, it does not mean that the scientific world is outside the earth. When we have experienced a great development in the mystical world, this does not mean that we live outside of this planet. It is a conception; it is a beautiful way of putting it, and it is the best we can find. "In the other world" means, in a world which is veiled from our eyes, our physical eyes; but it does not mean a world far away from us beyond our reach. Both the living and the dead inhabit the same space, we all live together. Only a veil separates us, the veil of this physical body. Separation means being unable to see one another; there is no other separation.

One need not attain to the seventh heaven in order to reach those who have passed. When one really cares for them, that bond of love and sympathy, in itself, makes them close to each other. Two people may be living in the same house, working together, seeing each other every day, every hour, and yet they may be as far apart as the north pole from the south pole. There are people thrown miles apart by destiny so that they cannot reach one another because of life’s difficult circumstances; and yet, they can be closer to each other than anyone else. If this is true, it proves that those united in spirit may be thrown far apart in the world and yet be so close together that nothing stands between them. Therefore, if those who have departed from this earth have a connection with someone on earth, they are close to him just the same. Nearness means nearness of the spirit, not of the physical body.

In India, there used to be a custom called sati, by which a wife who was devoted to her husband was cremated with him. Some people felt great horror at this idea, but others thought differently. I would say, in regard to this question, that when two souls have become one, whether they are both on earth, or whether one of them has gone to another plane, they are still united. If one of them remains living, then that living person is as though dead here, for he only lives there where there is real unity. There is no separation. Nothing can separate two souls if they are really united.

The third meaning of the spirit is that it is the mind and the soul, together. One might ask if the mind and soul, together, that is to say, the spirit, is that part of one’s being which lives. It is not a part, but all. Our overcoat is not a part of our being, it is something extraneous. It becomes temporarily a part, but it is not essentially a part. The real being is the spirit, the mind and the soul together.

One might think it uninteresting to live as spirit and not as body. It might seem uninteresting to one who has not experienced on this earth how to be able to live independently of the physical body. All mysticism has been based on this: how to be able to live independently of the physical body, how to live on earth as spirit, even for five minutes a day. This gives a conviction of being able to live and yet be independent of the physical body. It is an experience in life, an education in the highest knowledge. Once a person has realized how he can exist without the physical body, it produces a faith that gives an ultimate conviction that nothing can change.

It is not only a matter of existing, but of existing completely, fully. The soul is not dependent upon the eyes to see. It sees more than the physical eyes can see. It is not dependent upon the ears, as it hears more than the ears can hear. Therefore, he who knows spirit receives far greater inspiration from being able to exist independently of the physical body. It is very easy for a person with material knowledge to call those people fanatics who retire to the mountains or wander about thinking of spiritual things, who seem to live in a dream. They might appear to do so; but actually, they only do not conform to what everyone else does. They left the life of business and profession and politics, all social life, for the sake of deeper experience. It is not necessary for everyone to follow their example, but one may benefit from what they have brought to us.

At this time, West and East are coming closer together. What is needed now is that we should awaken and benefit from the fruits of the lives of people in both East and West. There is much that the West can give to the East. It has labored along certain lines, and the fruits of this work can be of use to the East. There are also fruits that Eastern people have gathered for years and years that will be of great use to the West once people have realized this. The particular lesson that can be learned from the experience of those in the East who have investigated life’s secret is the way of becoming conscious of one’s spirit, of realizing spirit. No doubt those who wish to mystify others make complexities out of simple things. But those who wish to serve the world in the path of truth reduce complex things to simple ones. It is in a simple form that we have to realize the truth.

The fourth meaning of spirit is the source and the goal of all things; something towards which all are bound, to which all will return. It is that spirit which, in religion, is called God. The best way of explaining this meaning of spirit is that it is like the sun, the center of all life, the divine spark within us. But the sun is not as small as it appears to be. Then what is the sun? The sun is all. The part of the sun that we recognize as the sun is the center of it; but the sun is, in reality, as large as its light reaches. The real sun is light, itself. As there is a point which is the central focus of light, we call that point the sun.

The light has centralized itself there; but the sun has other aspects such as rays which are not different from the sun, but which are the sun, itself. So, what are we? Our souls are the rays of the sun. In our inner being, we are both source and goal, itself. It is only our ignorance of this that keeps us ignorant of our own being.

Every atom of the universe, having come from the sun, from the divine sun, makes every effort to return to it. The tendency of the waves is to reach upward; of the mountains, to point upward; of the birds, to fly upward. The tendency of animals is to stand on their hind-legs. The tendency of man is to stand upright, ready to soar upward. An angel is pictured as a man with two wings ready to fly upward. Science has discovered the law of gravitation, but the mystic knows the other law, which is also a law of gravitation, but in the opposite direction.

Thus, not only is every soul attracted in that direction, but also every atom of this world, going through all the different processes known to biology in order to reach that state, to return to the spirit, is attracted in that direction. Therefore, it is not necessary to be frightened by going towards God, or by trying to attain the spirit by losing one’s identity, one’s individuality. A fear like this is the same as the experience of someone on top of a mountain. A kind of terror overwhelms a person when he is looking at the immensity of the view; and in the same way, a soul is frightened of spiritual attainment because of the immensity, the largeness and the depth it has. It frightens the soul who fears to lose itself because it has this false conception of its smaller self. The mystic says, "Try to die before death." To die before death is to play death. That means to get above this fright, which only comes from the false conception of self.

The one who has died before death no longer has desire; he is above desire. This is shown by the picture of the god Vishnu sitting upon the lotus. The lotus represents desire. Every petal is a desire. Sitting upon the lotus means that the desire is under him instead of being above his head. To some extent, there is a relationship between life in the spiritual world and life on earth, for that which is collected here on earth indicates the task one has to perform here. The only condition is that the one who has stayed a shorter while here must work more for his spiritual accomplishment than the one who has stayed longer on earth. When someone has achieved spirituality here, it is not necessary for him to stay longer, unless it is his desire. And the day the false conception of self is removed from his eyes, he begins to see the immensity of God’s majesty.

The Mystical Heart

When one asks, "What is the heart? Where is the heart?" — the answer, usually, is that the heart is in the breast. This is true. There is a nerve center in the breast of man which is so sensitive to our feelings that it is always regarded as the heart. When a person feels a great joy, it is in that center that he feels something lighting up; and through the lighting up of that center, his whole being seems to be light. He feels as if he were flying. If depression or despair has come into his life, this has an effect upon that center. A man feels his throat choked and his breath laden, as with a heavy load.

However, the heart is not only that. To understand this, one should picture a mirror standing before the heart, focused upon the heart, so that everything and every feeling is reflected in this mirror, which is in the physical being of man. Just as man is ignorant of his soul, so he does not know where his heart is, nor where the center is where his feelings are reflected. It is a fact known to scientists that when a child is formed, it begins from the heart. But a mystic’s conception is that the heart, which is the beginning of form, is also the beginning of the spirit that makes man an individual. The depth of that spirit is, in reality, what we call the heart. Through this, we understand that there is such a thing as a heart, which is the deepest depth of man’s being.

In these days, people attribute less importance to sentiment, and rely more upon the intellect. The reason for this is that when they meet two kinds of people, the intellectual and the sentimental, they find greater balance in an intellectual man than in one with much sentiment. This is no doubt true; but the very reason for the lack of balance is that there is a greater power than the intellect, and this power is sentiment. The earth is fruitful, but not as powerful as the water. The intellect is creative, yet not as powerful as the heart and the sentiment. In reality, the intellectual man will also prove unbalanced in the end if he has no sentimental side to his being.

Are there not many people of whom one can say, "I like him, love him, admire him, but he closes his heart?" The one who closes his heart neither loves others completely, nor allows others to love him fully. Besides, a man who is only intellectual, in time, becomes skeptical, doubting, unbelieving, and destructive, since there is no power of the heart to balance it. The One of Heart considers the devotion of the heart to be the best thing to cultivate for spiritual realization. Many people may not agree; but it is a fact that the one who closes his heart to his fellow man closes his heart to God. Jesus Christ did not say, "God is the intellect." He said, "God is love." Therefore, if the peace of God can be found anywhere, it is not in any church on earth, nor in Heaven above, but in the heart of man. The place where one is most certain to find God is in the loving heart of a kind man.

Many people believe that with the help of reason, man will act according to a certain standard of morals. However, it is not reason that makes people good; and even if they seem good or righteous, they are only made so artificially. The prisoners in jail can all be righteous; but if natural goodness and righteousness can be found anywhere, it is in the spring of the heart from which life arises, and every drop of this spring is a living virtue. This proves that goodness is not man-made; it is man’s very being. If he lacks goodness, it is not through lack of training, although training is often most desirable, but because he has not yet found his true self. Goodness is natural, for a normal person is necessarily good. No one needs teaching in order to live a good or righteous life. If love is the torch on his path, it shows him what fairness means, and the honor of his word, charity of heart, and righteousness. Do we not sometimes see a young man who, with all his boisterous tendencies, suddenly finds a girl whom he begins to love and who, when he really loves her, begins to show a change in his life? He becomes gentle, for he must train himself for her sake. He does without things he was never before willing to give up. In the same way, where there is love, forgiveness is not very difficult. A child comes to its mother, even after having offended a thousand times, and asks her forgiveness. There is no one else to go to, and it does not take a moment for the mother’s heart to forgive. Forgiveness was waiting there to manifest itself. One cannot help being kind when there is feeling. Someone whose feeling goes out to another person sees when that person needs his feeling and he strikes a note of sympathy in everyone he meets, finding the point of contact in every soul because he has love.

There are people who say, "But is it not unwise to give oneself to everyone in unrestrained tenderness, as people in general are not trustworthy?" If a person is good and kind, this goodness ought to become manifest to everyone, and the doors of the heart should be closed to no one.

Jesus Christ not only told us to love our friends, but also, he went as far as to say we should love our enemies; and the One of Heart treads the same path. He considers his charity of heart towards his fellow man to be love for God; and in showing love to everyone, he feels he is giving his love to God. Here the Sufi and the yogi differ. The yogi is not unkind, but he says, "I love you all, but I had better keep away from you, for your souls are always groping in darkness, and my soul is in the light. Your friendship will harm my soul, so I had better keep away and love you from afar." The knower behind the veil says, "It is a trial, but it should be tried. I shall take up my everyday duties as they come along." Although he knows how unimportant the things of the world are and does not overvalue these things, he attends to his responsibilities towards those who love him, like him, depend upon him, follow him. He tries to find the best way of coming to terms with all those who dislike and despise him. He lives in the world, yet he is not of the world. In this way, he considers that the main principle in the fulfillment of the purpose of his life is to love man.

Those who love their enemies and yet lack patience are like a burning lantern with little oil. It cannot keep alight; and in the end, the flame fades away. The oil in the path of love is patience; and besides this, it is unselfishness and self-sacrifice from beginning to end.

Some say, "I have loved dearly once, but I was disappointed." It is as if a man were to say, "I dug in the earth, but when the mud came, I was disappointed." It is true that mud came; but with patience, he will reach the water one day. Only patience can endure. Only endurance produces greatness.

Imitation gold can be as beautiful as real gold, the imitation diamond as bright as a real diamond. The difference is that the one fails in the test of endurance, and the other stands up to it. Yet man should not be compared with objects. Man has something divine in him, and he can prove this by his endurance on the path of love.

Whom then should one love, and how should one love? Whatever a person loves, whether duty, human beings, art, friends, an ideal, or his fellow creatures, he has assuredly opened the door through which he must pass in order to reach that love which is God. The beginning of love is an excuse. It leads to that ideal of love which is God, alone. Some say that they can love God, but not human beings. But this is like saying to God, "I love Thee, but not Thine image." Can one hate the human creatures in which God’s image is to be found and yet claim to love God? If one is not tolerant, not willing to sacrifice, can one then claim the love of the Lord?

The first lesson is the widening of the heart and the awakening of the inner feeling of the heart. The sign of saintliness is not in the power of words, not in the high position, either spiritual or intellectual, not in magnetism. The saintly spirit only expresses itself in the love of all creatures. It is the continuous springing of love from that divine fountain in the heart of man. When once that fountain is turned on, it purifies the heart, it makes the heart transparent to reveal both the outer and the inner world. The heart becomes the vehicle for the soul to see all that is within and without; and then a man not only communicates with another person, but also with God.

Repose

When the lips are closed, then the heart begins to speak; when the heart is silent, then the soul blazes up, bursting into flame, and this illuminates the whole of life. It is this idea which demonstrates to the mystic the great importance of silence, and this silence is gained by repose. Most people do not know what repose means because it is something they feel they need when they are tired. If they were not tired, they would never see the necessity for it.

Repose has many aspects. It is one kind of repose when a person retires from the activity of everyday life and finds himself alone in his room. He draws a breath of thankfulness as he feels, after all his interesting or tiresome experiences, "At last I am by myself." It is not an ordinary feeling, for there is a far deeper feeling behind it. It expresses the certainty that there is nothing to distract his mind and nothing which demands his action. At that moment, his soul has a glimpse of relief, the pleasure of which is inexpressible. However, the intoxication of life from which every man suffers is such that he cannot fully appreciate that moment of relief that everyone expects when it is time to retire after the activities of his daily life, whether he be rich or poor, tired or not.

Does this not teach us that there is a great mystery in repose, a mystery of which people are very often ignorant? Besides, we always find that a thoughtful person has repose by nature, and one who has repose is naturally thoughtful. It is repose which makes one more thoughtful, and it is continual action which takes away thoughtfulness, even from a sensible person. People working in the telephone, telegraph or post offices, upon whose minds there is a continual demand, often, in time, develop impertinence, insolence and lack of patience. They do not become less sensible; it only means that lack of repose, which weakens their sense of control, makes them give way to such things. This shows that repose is necessary, not only for a person on the spiritual path, but also for every soul living on the earth, whatever be his grade of evolution or his standing in life. It is the most important thing to be developed in anyone’s nature, not only in adults, but also in children, and it is something that should be taught from childhood. Nowadays, in education, people think so much about the different intellectual attainments the child will need in life and so little about the repose that is so very necessary for a child.

Sometimes cats and dogs prove more intuitive than mankind. Although man is more capable than the animals, he does not give himself time to become more intuitive. It often amused me in New York, where one would easily become exhausted by the noise of trains and trams and elevators and factories, to see that when a person had a little leisure time to sit in the train or subway, he at once began looking at the newspapers. All that action was not enough; is it not in the body, then there must be action in the brain! What is it? It is nervousness, a common disease that today has almost become normal health. If everybody suffers from the same disease, then this disease may be called normal.

Self-control, self-discipline, only comes from the practice of repose, which is helpful not only on the spiritual path, but also in one’s practical life, in being kind and considerate. The mystic, therefore, adopts the method of repose, and by this, he tries to prepare himself to tread the spiritual path. This path is not an outer path, it is an inner path that one has to tread. Therefore, the spiritual laws and the journey on the spiritual path are quite contrary to the earthly laws and the journey on the outer path.

To explain in simple words what the spiritual path is, I would say that it begins by living in communication with oneself, for it is in the innermost self of man that the life of God is to be found. This does not mean that the voice of the inner self does not come to everyone. It always comes, but not everyone hears it. That is why the real seeker, when he starts his efforts on this path, begins by communicating with his true self within. When once he has addressed the soul, then from the soul comes a kind of reproduction, like that which the singer can hear on a record that has been made of his own voice.

Having done this, when he has listened to what this process reproduces, he has taken the first step in the direction within, and this process will have awakened a kind of echo in his being. Either peace or happiness, light or form, whatever he has wished to produce, is produced as soon as he begins to communicate with himself. When we compare the man who says, "I cannot help being active, sad or worried, as it is the condition of my mind and soul," with the one who communicates with himself, it is not long before we, too, begin to realize the value of this communication.

This is what the knowers of heart have taught for thousands of years. The path of those behind the veil is not to communicate with fairies nor even with God; it is to communicate with one’s deepest innermost self, as if one were blowing one’s inner spark into a divine fire. But one does not stop there, he goes still further. He then remains in a state of repose, and that repose can be brought about by a certain way of sitting and breathing and also by a certain attitude of mind. Then he begins to become conscious of that part of his being which is not the physical body, but which is above it. The more he becomes conscious of this, the more he begins to realize the truth of the life hereafter. Then it is no longer a matter of his imagination or of his belief; it is his actual realization of the experience that is independent of physical life. It is in this state that he is capable of experiencing the phenomena of life. The knower, therefore, does not dabble in different wonder-workings and phenomena, for once he realizes this, the whole of life becomes a phenomenon and every moment, every experience, brings to him a realization of that life which he has found in his meditation.

The being of man is a mechanism of body and mind. When this mechanism is in order, then there is happiness and fullness of life. When anything is wrong with the mechanism, the body is ill and peace is gone. This mechanism depends upon winding; it is just like a clock that is wound and then goes for 24 hours. So it is in meditation. When a person sits in a restful attitude and puts his mind in a condition of repose, regulating the action of this mechanism by the process of meditation, it is like the winding of a clock. Its effect continues to be felt because the mechanism was put in order.

Thus, the belief of a mystic is not an outward belief in a deity he has not seen. The mystic’s worship is not only an outer form, by saying prayers and then his worship is finished. Certainly, he makes the best use of the outer things, and his pursuit is logical and scientific, and he will, if possible, unite them with the mystical conception. However, mysticism includes the scientific explanation as well as the realization of the things taught by religion, things that would have no meaning to an ordinary person.

When an ordinary person reads about the kingdom of God and Heaven, he reads these names, but he does not know where Heaven is, and he feels that there is a God, but there is no evidence for it. Therefore, a large number of intellectual people who really are seeking the truth are turning away from the outer religion because they cannot find its explanation. Consequently, they become materialistic. To the mystic, the explanation of the whole of religion is the investigation of the self. The more one explores oneself, the more one will understand all religions in the fullest light and all will become clear. "Mysticism" is only a light thrown upon one’s own religion, like a light brought into a room where everything one wants is to be found, and where the only thing that was needed was light.

Of course, the mystic is not always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks. Can parents always answer their children’s questions? There are some questions that can be answered, and others which should wait for an answer until those who ask them are able to understand. I used to be fond of a poem which yet I did not understand; I could not find a satisfactory explanation. After ten years all of a sudden, in one second, a light was thrown upon it, and I understood. There was no end to my joy. Does this not show that everything has its appointed time? When people become impatient and ask for an answer, something can be answered, something else cannot be answered; but the answer will come in its own time. One has to wait. Has anyone in the world been able to explain fully what God is, have even the scriptures and the prophets succeeded in this? God is an ideal too high and too great for words to explain. Can anyone explain such a word as love, can anyone say what truth is?

If truth is to be attained, it is only when truth, itself, has begun to speak, which happens in revelation. Truth reveals itself; therefore, the Persian word for both God and truth is khuda, which means self-revealing, thus uniting God with truth. One cannot explain either of these words. The only help the mystic can give is by indicating how to arrive at this revelation. No one can teach or learn this, one has to learn it oneself. The teacher is only there to guide one towards this revelation. There is only one teacher, and that teacher is God. The great masters of the world were the greatest pupils, and they each knew how to become a pupil.

How is all of this taught or brought to the consciousness of those who tread the path of truth? By bayat, by initiation. It is the trust of someone who guides, given to someone who is treading the path. The one who treads the path must be willing to risk the difficulties of the path and be willing to be sincere, faithful, truthful, undoubting, not pessimistic, and not skeptical. Otherwise, with all his efforts, he will not reach his aim. He must come wholeheartedly, or else he should not come at all. Half-heartedness is of no value. What is necessary, too, is some intellectual understanding of the metaphysical aspect of life, which some have, but not all. Besides this, the qualities of the heart are needed, with the divinity of love as a first principle. Then one needs action, but such action as will not hinder on the path of truth, such action as creates greater and greater harmony. And finally, one needs repose, which makes it possible to learn by one day of silence what would otherwise take a year of study; but no doubt only if one knows the real way of silence.

Action

Very often, a man is apt to think that it is study, meditation and prayer, alone, that can bring him to the way leading to the goal. However, it must be understood that action also plays an important part. Few, indeed, know what effect every action has upon one’s life, what power a right action can give and what effect a wrong action can have. Man is only on the lookout for what others think of his actions, instead of being concerned with what God thinks of them. If man knew what effect an action produces upon himself, he would understand that although a murderer may escape the hands of the policeman, he has not escaped from the fault he has committed, for he cannot escape himself. The greatest judge is sitting in his own heart. He cannot hide his acts from himself. No doubt it is difficult, almost impossible, for a man to judge the acts of other people, for he does not know what their conditions are. Man can best judge himself. However wicked he may be, he will not be really pleased with his wrong actions; or, if he is pleased for a moment, this pleasure will not last.

But what is right and what is wrong? No one can stamp a deed as right or as wrong; but there is a natural sense in man that distinguishes between right and wrong, just or unjust, a sense which is to be found even in a child. The child also sees the line and color in art or decoration, it notices when the tablecloth is not laid out straight on the table, when a line that should be straight is not straight. Even a child knows when things should be harmonious, and a child normally loves harmony. There is a natural tendency in the heart of man, the same natural instinct that masons use when building a house.

Different religions have taught different morals, which were right for the people at that time. No doubt the law of the masses must be respected; but the real conception of right and wrong lies in one’s deepest self. The soul is not pleased with that which is not right. The soul’s satisfaction lies always in something that gives it complete happiness. The whole of real living is based on the practice not only of thought, but of action, as all religions have been based not only on truth, but on action. Things both material and spiritual have been accomplished by action. To the mystic, therefore, action is most important.

During my travels from place to place, when I have come in contact with different people and have had the opportunity of staying with them, I have met some who had, perhaps, never in their lives read a book on theology or studied mysticism, their whole lives having been spent in work, business and industry. Yet I felt a spiritual advancement made naturally by their right actions in life. They had come to a state of purity which, perhaps, someone else might find by means of study or meditation.

One might ask, what is the best path to take in everyday life to lead one to life’s ideal? The best way is to consider harmony as the first principle to be observed. In all circumstances, situations and conditions, one should try to harmonize with one’s fellow creatures. It is easy to say, but most difficult to live. It is not always easy to harmonize. But if we question ourselves as to why it is so difficult, the answer is that it is not always that other people are difficult and not pliable; it is we, ourselves, who cannot bend. The palm tree that grows straight up cannot harmonize with other trees whose trunks are not so straight and strong.

There are many good people, but they are not always harmonious. There are many true people, but their truth is not always comforting. They may utter a truth which is like a slap in the face to someone. They are just like the palm tree, straight and righteous, yet at the same time, not in harmony. A harmonious person can bend, is pliable, and he can meet others. There is no doubt that in order to harmonize, one has to make sacrifices, one has to bend to people one does not want to bend to. One has to be more pliable than one is by nature. One has to be more clever than one really is. And all these attempts will not succeed unless one makes a great effort, unless one realizes that harmony is the most essential thing in life.

Why does a mystic attribute such great importance to harmony? Because to a mystic, his whole life is one continuous symphony, a playing of music, with each soul contributing his particular part to the symphony. A person’s success, therefore, depends upon the idea he has of harmony. Very few people in the world pay attention to harmony. They do not know that without it, there is no chance of happiness. It is only the harmonious ones who can make others happy and partake of that happiness themselves; and apart from them, it is hard to find happiness in the world.

The fighter has no peace, as his battles will be ever increasing. It is the peacemaker who is blessed. No doubt, in order to make peace, he will have to fight with himself; and in that way, he will be able to make peace with others. Whatever a person’s education or position in life, he may possess all he wants, but if that one thing is lacking in his life and heart, then nothing can bring him peace.

Therefore, if a man does not show through his actions some of the characteristics of a human being, characteristics that are not to be found in animals, then he has not awakened to human nature. There are certain actions such as eating, drinking, sitting and walking, that are not different from those of the animals. Yet, these very same actions can become especially characteristic of human nature when they have a guiding light behind them.

For instance, when a man thinks he must not return a push when he is pushed by somebody while walking, and instead, says, "I am sorry," he shows a tendency which is different from that of an animal, for animals will fight one another and will lower their horns instead of bowing to one another, while their greeting will be a howl. Man can be different.

The special characteristics of man are consideration, refinement, patience and thoughtfulness. And when once he has practiced these, it leads to another action: to the practice of self-sacrifice, which in turn, leads to a divine action. When man sacrifices his time and his advantages in life for the sake of another whom he loves, respects or admires, then this sacrifice raises him higher than the ordinary standard of human beings. His is then a divine nature, not human anymore. Then a human being begins to think as God thinks, and his actions become more and more divine. They become the actions of God, and that makes him greater than the person who merely believes in God.

The awakened soul sees all of the doings of adults as the doings of the children of one father. He looks upon them as the Father would look upon all human beings on the earth, without thinking that they are German or English or French. They are all equally dear to him. He looks upon all full of forgiveness, not only upon those who deserve it, but also upon the others. For he understands the reason behind it all. By seeing good in everybody and in everything, he begins to develop that divine light that expands itself, illuminating the greater part of life and revealing it as a scene of divine sublimity.

The mystic develops a wider outlook on life, and this wider outlook changes his actions. He develops a point of view that may be called a divine point of view. Then he rises to the state in which he feels that all that is done to him comes from God; and when he, himself, does right or wrong, he feels that he does right or wrong to God. To arrive at such a stage is true religion. There can be no better religion than this, the true religion of God on earth. This is the point of view that makes a person God-like and divine. He is resigned when badly treated; but for his own shortcomings, he will take himself to task, for all his actions are directed towards God.

The conception that the mystic has of the Deity is not only that of a king, a judge or a creator; the mystical conception of God is that of the Beloved, the only Beloved there is. To Him, all the love of this world is like that of little girls playing with their dolls, loving them. In that way, they learn the lessons they have to practice later in life when taking care of the home. The mystic learns the same lessons by proving to be sincere and devoted to all kinds of creatures. This he must do in order to awaken himself to the Beloved, the only Beloved there is, to whom all love is due.


On to Initiation

Return to home page    |    Contents