'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
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:
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
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
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
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.