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Volume II - The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word

Part III: The Power of the Word

Chapter VI

'The Word that was lost' is a symbolical phrase, a paradox of the mystics which has existed in the East and among the wise for ages. Many schools of spiritual or mystical cult have been formed in order to understand this particular problem, but what happens is that whoever wishes to solve the problem says very little about it after he has solved it.

There is an ancient story in the East, which tells that there was a wall of mystery. The tradition was that whenever anyone tried to climb upon the wall to look at the other side, instead of coming back he smiled and jumped over and never came back again. So the people of that country became very curious to know what mystery lay behind that wall. They thought they would arrange something so as to pull the person back when he looked at the other side of the wall and wished to go there. When the person tried to climb upon the wall, curious to see what was on the other side, the people who saw him climb put seven chains on his feet and held him so that he would not go over. When he looked at the other side he too was delighted with what he saw and smiled. Those standing at their side, curious to know what he had to say, pulled him back, but, to their great disappointment, when he came back they found he had lost his speech.

The mystery of the whole life has a great charm. Every soul is curious about it, but when one wants to explain the mystery of life words are not adequate. There are many reasons for this speechlessness, for this silence. The first is that the man who has seen the other side of the wall finds himself among children when he returns. To him all the things to which people attach great importance and value seem nothing. For that person truth and fact are two things; for everybody else truth and fact are the same.

The followers of different faiths and religions, of different opinions and ideas dispute and argue and differ from one another. Do they dispute and differ in the realization of truth? No, all differences and disputes are caused by the knowledge of various facts, which are different from one another. There are many facts and one truth. There are many stars and one sun; when the sun has risen the stars pale. The one before whom the sun has risen, to whom the truth has manifested, for him facts make little difference. The light of truth, falling upon facts, makes them disappear.

It is very interesting to observe that there are many people who are deaf and dumb at the same time. This shows that deafness and dumbness are connected, and according to a certain point of view it is the same thing to be deaf and to be dumb. It is just like two ends of one line: when you look at the ends you may say 'deaf and dumb'; when you look at the line it is one. In the same way perception and expression are the two ends of one line. In other words, the faculty of speaking and the sense of hearing are the same. If one is lost the other is lost.

The difference between science and mysticism is very light; the difference is only that one goes so far and the other goes farther still. Considering the idea of creation from a material point of view a scientist goes as far as realizing that there are certain elements which cause the creation, and form it into various objects. When he goes farther still, he goes as far as atoms, molecules, electrons, and then he comes to vibrations, and at this he stands still. He says that the basis of all creation must be movement, and the finest aspect of movement is called vibration. The mystic is not much different from the scientist who says that movement is at the basis of the whole creation. The difference is that the mystics of ancient times did not put a limit at the end, which they called movement or vibration: they traced the source in the divine Spirit.

According to the point of view of a mystic, what existed before creation was the perfect Being. Perfect not in the literal sense of the word, but in the sense of the spirit of the word; for, in our everyday conversation, the word perfect is used for many things, which are limited, and the spirit of the meaning of perfection is beyond words. By divine perfection a mystic means the perfection of beauty, of wisdom, of power, the perfection of love, the perfection of peace. But at the same time when there are eyes there must be an object to look at, to admire; that is wherein the purpose of the eyes is fulfilled. When there are ears there must be a sound to be heard in order to enjoy its beauty; therein lies the fulfillment of the existence of the ears. Therefore it was necessary for the perfect Being, in order to realize His own perfection, to create a limited perfection of His own Being. This is accomplished by the One being divided into three aspects, which is really the secret behind the idea of Trinity: the seer, the seen and the sight.

It is the work of the biologist to explain in detail the gradual development of the creation. But the outline that the mystics of all ages have made is that first was the creation of the mineral kingdom, then that of the vegetable, then that of the animal kingdom, and then that of man. And that through all this process of development there has been a certain purpose that has led the creation on to the fulfillment of a certain object. But when one studies the whole process – the mineral, the vegetable, the animal kingdom and then man – the seer finds something which was missing and which then appears as the development goes on further. And what is it that was missing? It is expression and perception, and it is this, which the mystics have pointed out in their symbolical expression: ''The word that was lost'' What made them say that the word was lost, was that in the beginning the word was there; there was movement, vibration, and there was the consciousness of the perfect Being. The rocks were not made – even from a scientific point of view – before vibrations manifested. First there was vibration, and then followed the rocks. The difference between the mystical and the scientific point of view is this, that the scientist says that from the rock intelligence developed by a gradual process, and the mystic says: 'No, the rock was only a grade of intelligence; intelligence was first, and the rock came later'.

The whole process of manifestation suggests that it is working towards some object, and that object is one and the same. Yes, there are two points of view to look at it. One may say, 'A mountain will some day turn into a volcano.' Or, 'A tree will some day bear fruits, and therein the object of its being is fulfilled.' But then there is another point of view, which is perhaps more perfect: that the stone and tree and animal and man all are working towards one object, and that the whole process of the creation is working towards it. And what is that purpose towards which every aspect of this creation is working? What is it that the silent mountains are waiting for in the wilderness? What is it that the woods, the trees, are silently waiting for? What moment? What object? What is it that all the animals are seeking and searching after – besides their food? And what is it that is giving importance to man's every activity, and after the fulfillment of each activity draws him on to another? It is one object, but covered under many forms. It is the search after that word, the word that was lost. The further the creation develops, the greater is the longing to hear this word.

As there is a gradual process from the mineral to the human kingdom, so is there also a gradual process from a certain state of human evolution to a state of human perfection. What is it that gives man the inclination to hear a word of admiration, a word of praise that satisfies him? What is it that pleases him in hearing the voice, the word of his friend? What is it that charms him in music, in poetry, and gives him joy? It is the same word that was lost appearing in different forms.

Creation – I mean the material creation – in its beginning seems to be deaf and dumb. Who feels that pain of realizing himself to be deaf and dumb? It is that spirit of perfection, which once was perfect in perception and expression. The explanation of the soul, which the great poet Jalaluddin Rumi gives in the Masnavi, expresses this idea in a poetic form. He says, 'The soul is as a bird in a cage, deprived of that freedom and that joy which it was accustomed to experience.' This also explains the main tragedy of life. Although every man, every soul will describe the cause of that pain to a certain degree, and every soul will describe the cause of that pain differently, yet behind the various causes there is one cause, and that cause is the captivity of the soul. In other words: that the word was lost.

Souls at different stages of evolution wish to search after this word that was lost, in the form in which they are accustomed to search. Ways have been made to search for this word which have become right ways and wrong ways, sins and virtues. It is therefore that the wise are tolerant to all, for they see that every soul has his own way to follow, his own purpose to accomplish. But in the accomplishment of all these purposes is the one purpose, and that is the finding of the word that was lost.

No soul, however, will obtain satisfaction unless he touches that perfection which is spoken of in the Bible: 'Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect'. This means that the Spirit of God itself has gone through different phases to realize that perfection which has limited the perfection of God's own Being, but which is intelligible. Therein lies the satisfaction.

Now one may ask: 'What explanation can be given of this perfection? What is it? What experience is it?' This perfection is what words can never explain, except by saying that the eyes of the soul become open, and that from all sides that word which was lost comes to the ears of this soul. The poets of the East have pictured it in a beautiful imagery in the stories like that of Rama and Sita. They have explained the joy of this perfection as a lover who, having lost his beloved, has found her again. No imagery can better explain this idea than this picture of a man who has lost his soul, and has found it again.

Wisdom cannot be called truth. Wisdom is a form in which the souls who have realized have tried to perceive the word in life, or to interpret it to themselves. It is this wisdom which is called in the Greek language sophia, and in Persian Sufi. Wisdom is the interpretation of life made by someone whose point of view has become different by looking at life in the sunlight. By Sufi message is meant the message of wisdom. It is more a point of view than any teaching or dogma or theory. One arrives at this point of view not only by study, but by association with those who have that particular point of view. Besides, by diving deep into life one comes to the realization of truth and for diving deep into life there is a way or process. It is possible that either with some difficulty or with ease one may find a place one is looking for in a town. One may look for it in different directions, and at last find it. But by asking one who knows one can find it sooner. The Sufi Movement therefore gives the facility of studying, of coming into contact with those who have the same point of view, and of knowing the ways through which one comes to the realizations that are necessary on the path. The idea of the word that was lost belongs to the inner cult and the secret teaching of all ages. Very few at present know, or at least seem to know, the meaning of it. There is not much difference in belief between the mystic and the materialist, but there is very much difference in their ideal. For instance, a materialist who seeks for the source of the whole creation comes to the same conclusion as the mystic: that there is only one source of the life of variety. And both mystic and materialist come at the end of their path to the same thing: truth.

It is chiefly in their ideal that they differ. The materialist thinks that all the consciousness and intelligence that one sees in man is the natural development of life. The mystic says that this consciousness or intelligence is the same as the unlimited consciousness or intelligence which is put into different channels, and that from this intelligence that existed in the beginning all manifestation has come. Picturing the unlimited consciousness or intelligence as the ocean, the consciousness or intelligence of man is like a drop. Thus the materialist sees the intelligence of man as the natural development of humanity, while the mystic sees it as the divine essence, as one, as the source of all things.

In the belief of the mystic it is not only man who is seeking for something; plants, animals, even rocks and mountains, are all looking for something. Man who analyzes life, distinguishes one object as a thing, another entity as a being. In this way he divides life into so many aspects, so many things, but in reality life is one. Therefore he sees intelligence only in living beings. Although intelligence is especially developed in man, there is mind also in animals, in plants, in trees; each mind is a particle of the unlimited intelligence. Often an animal thinks more than a man; one can only say that the animal is not as much developed as man. According to the mystic, mind exists also in plants and trees; in rocks and mountains mind is hidden somewhere. Mind is working imperceptibly in all things, in things that man only recognizes as objects.

Comparison between two minds shows that there is a vast difference between them, but it is difficult to define it. Some persons may have experienced in life how plants often respond to influences, especially to the human beings around them, how they often wither in a home where there is distress, disturbance, or disharmony, and how they often live longer where there is harmony. When their owners understand plants they become responsive to love, harmony and sympathy; often plants feel the absence of these qualities. The condition of a person's mind can be seen in its effect on the plants in his surroundings. The human being is so much absorbed in his own affairs that he sees no further than he can see. Generally mankind is too unaware of the condition of others; often man does not even know the condition of those who are near and dear to him. If it were not so, some nations could not be happy and comfortable while people in other countries are starving and dying by millions. Man is unaware of the secret of his own being. What he needs is to interest himself in the life of beings in another phase of evolution, before he can come to the fundamental basis, the consciousness of his own being.

If you have ever been far away in the forests or the mountains, far away from all the population, you will know that there comes, consciously or unconsciously, a feeling of romance. The wind that repeats the sound coming from the trees, the rocks, the murmur of water running – all tell you that they are wanting to get back something that has been lost. This feeling comes to human beings even during the pleasures of everyday life, for then there is a joy that opens up something in them, and then comes this yearning, and this yearning one feels on every side, in the wilderness, in the forest. There comes a feeling of longing, of deep yearning of the heart, the searching for something that has been lost. When we look at the beings living around us we see the same thing. For instance, look at the birds and contemplate their restless flight, the ceaseless roaming of animals in the forest. The first thought that might come is that they are searching for food, but he who has a deeper insight into nature will certainly feel their restlessness, their searching for that which is lost.

There is a tendency in human beings, although the human being has much interest in life through his various occupations and moods. He finds a thousand and one excuses for his restlessness, for his depression, and illusion is so much developed in man that a reason always comes at his command. There is always someone who will say to a poor man: 'It is sad for you that you are not rich', or someone comes and says: 'You look depressed; I know there is so much sorrow, that is the reason'. But reason is always at man's command and is applied outwardly, so man cannot find the real reason, which is within. That reason is suppressed beneath all the reasoning, and man seeks – more than the animal kingdom does – to get back something that has been lost. Nowadays life never gives man a moment in which to be quiet, to ponder upon the true cause of his constant unhappiness. Also it keeps him in an illusion; always looking outwardly he can never find the cause outside himself. It is as if he were looking for the moon on the earth!

Now you may ask: 'What has man lost?' The answer is: God himself, that perfect intelligence that is in every being, that intelligence that the Vedanta calls light. In the Quran it is said that God is light, which means that the light of God is immanent in the world of names and forms, in all that exists in this world of variety. In this world of variety different forms of activity are producing different results. Yet man in this life of illusion has the same intelligence, the perfection of which he can realize in that state of consciousness where he is aware of his own perfection.

The religions, the mystics, the philosophers of all ages have given the key to this secret, and that is what the Sufi message is bringing back to humanity. Christ has said it so beautifully: 'Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect'. The yearning of every soul is for the realization of that perfection; that is the longing, consciously or unconsciously, of every thing, of every being in this world. There is something in the whole creation, which is like an alarm-clock set for a certain time to make a sound, so that one may awaken. That clock sounds through all the activity of evolution, and when a certain point of evolution is touched man is awakened by the alarm: that is the word that was lost. It has its echo in the longing.

Now you may ask: 'How can one listen, how can one find that word?' That word rises from one's own heart, re-echoing in everything in this universe. If it does not rise from one's own heart it cannot be heard in the outer world. You may ask: 'What is the sign? What makes it rise? Who can hear it?' The answer is: as soon as this word rises in your own heart, you touch God, you touch perfection, and then you begin to understand the divine tongue, and the secret that was closed for so long seems to be revealed.

Ancient stories, stories in the Bible, tell of men speaking with trees, with running water, of sounds coming from the rock. A man without patience will not stop to listen, he hurries on. He is ready to laugh at such things, but there is nothing surprising or impossible in it. This world which is around us sounds continually; the word re-echoes in all things. Only man must be aware of his privilege, of this underlying oneness of all life. The whole treasure of the universe is in the understanding of the mystical idea. This lack of religion of today, this increasing materialism – what is its cause? It is caused by the lack of knowledge of religion; it is the spirit of religion that is lost.

Mankind cannot all be turned one way. Form does not matter; form is nothing without spirit. What is needed is the understanding of each other's faith, respect for each other's ideal, regard for that which is dear to our fellow men and other creatures. The attempt to make the whole world believers of one faith would be – if it could succeed – as if all men had the same face. It would become a very uninteresting world.

The work that the Sufi message has, therefore, to accomplish is to bring forward this idea of the mystics that it is the spirit, not the form, that matters. One should understand the belief of others, and come to the realization of the word that was lost, which is the seeking of every soul; that one should reflect that picture of oneness in order to hear again the word that was lost, to hear it sounding in one's own heart.


checked 25-Oct-2005