Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE SOUL, ITS ORIGIN AND UNFOLDMENT
WHEN WE look at life and at the process of its development, either from a mystical or from a scientific point of view, we shall find that it is one life developing itself through different phases. In other words: there is one vital substance – call it energy, intelligence, force, or light, call it God or spirit – which is forcing its way through the most dense aspects of nature, and which leads to its finest aspects. For instance by studying the mineral kingdom we shall find there is a life in it which is forcing its way out. We see that from the mineral kingdom come substances such as gold and silver and precious stones. This means that there is a process by which matter becomes finer and finer until it begins to show that the Spirit is of such radiance, intelligence, and beauty, that it even manifests through precious stones.
This is the scientific point of view; but when one adopts a mystical point of view then, if one is among rocks, if one stands still in the mountains, if one goes alone into the solitude, one begins to feel an upliftment, a sense of peace, a kind of at-one-ment with the rocks, hills, and mountains. What does this mean? It means that the same spirit which is in us, is also in the mountain and rocks, it is buried in the rocks as it is in a less degree in ourselves, but it is the same spirit. That is why we are attracted to mountains, although mountains are not as living as we are. It is we that are attracted, not they. Besides what can we give to the mountains? Restlessness, discord, our lack of harmony, our limitations. What can the mountains give us? Harmony, peace, calmness, a sense of patience, endurance. They inspire us with the idea that they have been waiting for perhaps thousands of years for an upliftment which comes through the development of nature from rock to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to man. This gradual unfoldment of the spirit is buried in all these different aspects of nature; and at each step, from rock to plant, from plant to animal, and from animal to man, the spirit is able to express itself more freely, is able to move more freely.
In this way the spirit finds itself in the end; this shows that there is one purpose working through the whole of creation. The rocks are working out the same destiny as man, the plants are growing towards the same goal as man. What is that goal? Unfoldment. The spirit is buried in them and wants to make its way out. At each step of evolution there is a new unfoldment, a greater opening. From the animal, Darwin says, man has come. It might have seemed at the time that this was a new scientific discovery, but it was not so. A Persian poet, who lived seven hundred years before Darwin, says in poetic terms and in a religious form that God slept in the rock, dreamed in the plant, awoke in the animal, and realized Himself in man. And fifteen hundred years ago the Prophet Muhammad said the same in the Quran: that first was the rock, and afterwards the animals, and from them man was created.
The mystic sees a development of material life from rock to plant, from plant to animal, and from animal to the human physical body. This is one aspect, but only one. There is something else also, and that is the divine Spirit, the Light, the Intelligence, the All-consciousness. The one makes the earth, the other heaven. It is this Sun, this divine Spirit, which shines and projects its rays, each ray becoming a soul. Thus it is not true to say that man has developed from a monkey, and it is degrading the finest specimen of nature that God has created if it is called an improvement of matter. It is a materialistic, limited conception. The soul comes direct from the divine Spirit. It is intelligence itself, it is the consciousness; but not the consciousness we know, for we never experience the pure existence of our consciousness. What we know of our consciousness is what we are conscious of, and therefore we only know what consciousness is in name.
There is no difference between pure intelligence and consciousness. We call pure intelligence consciousness when that intelligence is conscious of something, yet what we are conscious of is something that is before us. We are not that. We are the being who is conscious, not that which we are conscious of. The mistake is that we identify ourselves with what we see, because we do not see ourselves. Therefore man naturally calls his body himself, because he does not know himself. As he cannot find himself, what he identifies himself with is his body. In reality man is not his body, man is his soul. The body is something man possesses; it is his tool, his instrument with which he experiences life, but the body is not himself. Since he identifies himself with his body, he naturally says, 'I live', 'I die', 'I am happy', 'I am unhappy', 'I have fallen', or 'I have risen'. Every condition of his limited and changeable body makes him think, 'I am this'. In this way he loses the consciousness of the ever-changing aspect of his own being.
The soul is the ray which in order to experience life brings with it an instrument, vehicles, and those vehicles are the body and the mind. Therefore instead of 'spirit', we could just as well say the soul with its two vehicles, body and mind. Through the body it experiences outer conditions, through the mind it experiences inner conditions of life. The soul experiences two spheres, the physical and the mental sphere; the mental sphere through the mind, and the physical sphere through the body and the five senses.
When we come to the evolution of the world according to the point of view of the mystic, we shall see that it is not that man has come from the plant and animal and rock, but that man has taken his body, his physical instrument, from the rock, from the animal, from the plant, whereas he himself has come direct from the spirit and he is directly joined to the spirit. He is, and always will be above that physical instrument which he has borrowed from the earth. In other words, man is not the product of the earth, but the inhabitant of the heavens. It is only his body which he has borrowed from the earth. Because he has forgotten his origin, the origin of his soul, he has taken the earth for his origin, but this is only the origin of his body and not of his soul.
There is the question of what is the soul's natural unfoldment towards spiritual attainment. Spirituality apart, at every stage in one's life – infancy, the time from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to middle age – at every further step there is a new consciousness. Childhood is quite a new consciousness compared with infancy. Youth is quite a different consciousness compared with childhood. In that way every soul, no matter what stage of life it is in and whether it knows it or not, has gone through many different unfoldments, each of which has given it a new consciousness. And there are experiences such as failure in business, or misfortune, or an illness, or some blow in life – it may be an affair of the heart or of money or a social matter: there are many blows which fall upon a person – and then a shell breaks and a new consciousness is produced. Very few will see it as an unfoldment, very few will interpret it as such, but it is so. Have we not all known among our acquaintances someone very uninteresting or with a disagreeable nature to whom we were never attracted, and then perhaps after a blow, a deep sorrow, or some other experience, he awakens to a new consciousness and suddenly attracts us because he has gone through some kind of process?
Spiritual unfoldment is the ultimate goal of all mankind, and it comes at the moment when a person begins to be more thoughtful. When he begins to remember or to realize this yearning of the soul, consciously or unconsciously, a feeling comes, 'Is this all I have to do in life, to earn money, to have high rank or position? If this is all, it is all a game. I have become tired of this game, I must think of something else. There is something else I have to attain to.' This is the beginning; this is the first step on the spiritual path. As soon as a person has taken this first step his outlook is changed, his sense of values becomes different, and things to which he had attached great importance become of less importance; things which occupied him a great deal, he no longer concerns himself with. A kind of indifference comes over him. Nevertheless, a thoughtful person keeps to his duty just the same; in fact he is more conscientious. There is greater harmony because he also begins to pity others.
And when he goes another step forward there comes bewilderment. He begins to wonder, 'What is it all for? Much ado about nothing!' I once saw in India a sage whom I knew to be very deep, a man of high attainment, and he was laughing at nothing. I wondered what he was laughing at. Then I stood there and looked around, thinking I must see from his point of view what was making him laugh so much. And I saw people hustling and bustling. For what? Was it not laughable? Every person thinking his particular point of view to be the most important! He pushes others away because he finds his action the most important. Is this not the picture of life? It is the way of the evolved and the unevolved. And what do they reach? Nothing. Empty-handed they leave this world; they have come without anything and they leave without anything.
It is this outlook which bewilders the soul. The sage does not feel proud when he laughs at others, but at the same time he finds it highly amusing. But he is just as amused at himself as at others.
And again another step forward brings a person to an understanding which changes his outlook and manner. Generally what happens is this: from morning till evening man reacts against everything, both good and bad. But good he sees very rarely; he always sees bad things. Or he meets someone who is nervous or excited or domineering or selfish, and so he experiences a jarring effect from everyone he meets. Then, without knowing it, his constant reaction will be one of despising, of hating, or of wishing to get away. This will be his continual feeling; and if he gets into the habit of saying, 'I don't like', 'I dislike', he will soon be saying it from morning till evening with everyone he meets. This reaction he then expresses in word, thought, feeling, or action.
When one reaches this third stage of understanding one begins to understand instead of reacting. Then there is no reaction, for understanding comes and suppresses it. It is just like the anchoring of a boat; it produces tranquility, stillness, weight in the personality. One no longer sways with every wind that blows; but one stays on the water like a heavy ship, not like a small boat that moves with every wave that passes. This is the stability one reaches in the third stage of unfoldment; and then one is ready to tolerate and to understand both the wise and the foolish.
It is a fact that the foolish person disagrees more with others than does the wise. One would think that he knew more than the wise! But the wise man agrees with both the foolish and the wise; the wise man is ready to understand everybody's point of view. He has his own ideas, his way of looking at things, but he is capable of looking at things from the point of view of others too. One eye alone does not see fully; to make the vision complete two eyes are needed. So the wise can see from two points of view, and if we do not keep our own thoughts and preconceived ideas in check, if we cannot be passive, and if we do not wish to see from the point of view of other people we make a great mistake. This third stage produces a tendency to understand every person one meets.
Then again there is a fourth stage of the unfoldment. In that fourth stage one not only understands, but one sympathizes; one cannot but sympathize, for then one realizes that life in the world is nothing but limitation. Whether a person is rich, in a high position or in wretched circumstances, whatever condition he is in or whatever he is, he has to experience this limitation. This in itself is a great misery, and therefore every person has his problems. And when one begins to see that every person on this earth has a certain problem or burden he has to carry through life, one cannot but sympathize. The one who is awake to the pain of mankind, whether it is of his friend or his foe, cannot help but sympathize with him. Then he develops a tendency of reaching out; he will always wish to reach out to every person he meets. And naturally by his sympathy he looks for good points, for if one looks at a person without sympathy one will always touch his worst points.
And when one goes a step further still, then the way is open to communicate. Just as there is a communication between two people who love each other, so the sympathy of a person who has achieved his soul's unfoldment is so awakened that not only every person but even every object begins to reveal its nature, its character, and secret. To him every man is an open book. We hear stories of saints and sages who talked with rocks and plants and trees. They are not just stories; this is a reality.
All the teachings given by the great prophets and teachers are only interpretations of what they have seen, and they have interpreted in their own language what they have read from this manuscript of nature, what trees, plants, and rocks said to them. Did they only speak with these in the past? No, the soul of man is always capable of that bliss if he only realized it. Once the eyes of the heart are open man begins to read every leaf of the tree as a page of the sacred Book.