Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE VISION OF GOD AND MAN (2)
RUMI says in his great book, the Masnavi that the reason why a child cries the first moment after it is born on earth is because it realizes its exile from the higher spheres. It is unhappy because it finds itself in a different sphere, a different world. The soul seems captive in this mortal body.
There is a beautiful story in the Quran which explains symbolically the idea of the captivity of the soul. It says that God made a statue of man, of the first man, and asked the soul to enter into this body. And the soul refused saying, 'Lord, I do not want to be imprisoned in this physical body'. Then God told the angels to sing and dance, and on hearing their song and with the rhythm of the dance the soul went into ecstasy, and in that condition it entered the body.
Rumi says that the reason why every soul is yearning to attain something is that it is in exile, a captive in this physical body which for a while it considered to be itself, with which it identified itself, but which in reality is not itself. It is only a garb, but because it has identified itself with this garb it is unhappy; it has lost that freedom which belonged to it, which was its own.
The vision of man is small, narrow, because of his limitation in this physical body. In other words, the eyes cannot see farther than the mind can, and the mind cannot see farther than the soul can. Because the soul is dependent upon the mind the vision becomes limited, and as the mind is accustomed to experience through the body, the vision of the mind is limited. It is the vision of the perfect One which, by means of the captivity, has made the individual; thus individual means the limited experience of the soul. Whether man knows it or not, whether he believes it or not, there always comes a time when he finds that nothing pleases him. Sometimes he thinks that he is unhappy because he has no money or no comforts; he imagines that if he had a comfortable home with pleasant, congenial surroundings everything would be all right; but when he has obtained all this he is dissatisfied just the same. It is because of man's innermost being that he is only satisfied for a short time by outside factors. His lack of freedom causes a continual craving; the soul which is captive in mind and body and which cannot express itself fully cannot experience life as it would wish, because by identifying itself with its garbs it has accustomed itself to be ignorant of itself. Therefore spiritual attainment is a matter of finding the secret by uncovering the soul beneath these garbs.
No one can say how God looks upon the world, how God sees life. Yet there are souls who attain to the divine vision, in other words their outlook becomes God's outlook. In Sufi terms this is called Akhlaq-i Allah, which means the manner of God. When man has reached the stage of spiritual attainment where he has developed the outlook of God his manner becomes the manner of God. The greater man's evolution the wider his outlook on life; the wider his outlook the higher he stands. But at the same time, as life is today and in so far as we are able to see our fellow men, it seems that people care little to distinguish themselves in this way.
In the modern world the pitch, it appears, has become smaller and smaller, the pitch of human understanding. Why is this so? Because of the lack of individual progress. As man is busy with mass-production the general tendency is to keep everybody on the same level of understanding. People all read the same newspapers as if they were afraid of ideas being unalike. So they remain all at the same pitch; and if any man has a tendency to go forward he is considered a dreamer, an eccentric, strange. There is no encouragement for individual development, and therefore society keeps the progress of the whole within certain limits and does not allow it to develop further.
And now the question arises, if God is absolute, then what is the use of worship, or prayer, or of believing in God in some form or other – as King, or Judge, or Creator, or the Superior Being? What is the use of it? It is very easy to read in a book that it is the absolute that is God, that it is the abstract. This means no one and nothing, or all and everything! Indeed, there is some truth, in this. But the idea of God being the absolute is larger than man's mind. The mind wants to understand, but the brain cannot grasp it. Many intellectual people have lost their way by reading somewhere that God is abstract. It means nothing to them, for they have not yet arrived at that stage of evolution where they can assimilate such an idea. Before getting to that stage they have swallowed a pill they can never digest. On top of this come people who have new ideas and thoughts, and who give lessons about these. They say, 'You are God; I am God'. In their way their insolence becomes greater and greater. The lofty ideal of God, the ideal which uplifted the seekers of all ages, is being lost. Those who have arrived at realization do not speak about such things in connection with the God-ideal; they realize it in their hearts and keep quiet. But those who have the God-ideal only in the brain, who speak about it and want to touch it, do not touch the ideal. And where do they get to? Nowhere.
Man can only conceive of an idea in the way he is able to conceive of a thing. For instance, if one speaks about fairies no one will think of them as trees or plants but as human beings. If an artist is told to paint an angel he will paint it in the form of a human being. He will conceive it in the form to which he is accustomed, which is near and dear to his mind.
Naturally every man conceives the idea of God differently. One conceives God as the Judge; he does not see justice in the world, so he sees it in God. Another conceives God as the Creator; man knows himself to be a creator, so he thinks that God is the perfect creator. It is natural for man to make God that which he thinks to be best; therefore whether people belong to the same religion or nation or not, each one of them has his own God, depending on the way he looks upon Him. To have one's own belief is the first step on the spiritual path. It is not right for a person to say, 'Believe in my God.' Someone else may not be capable of believing in the same way that he does. He believes in his own way, so let him believe in that way. After all it is a first belief; it is nothing but a garb, a garb made by one's own imagination. In order to kindle that tendency to imagine, to idealize, to worship, the wise in olden times said to those who were not capable of imagination, 'Here is a statue of God.' Those who worship these statues, the Chinese, the Greeks, the Hindus, were they mistaken? No, each person's God is as he looks upon Him; and if one says that there are as many gods as there are people in the world, that is true also. Behind it is God, one and the same God of all. First there is the conception, the imagination, and in this way everyone proceeds. And if someone wanted to use another person's imagination the wise said, 'Well, take this little picture; there is your God.'
It is a pity that it was not only in the past that people were primitive: today people's imagination is even worse. Man has become a machine, toiling from morning till evening. He has very little time to imagine; if he had he would be another being. Any scientific discovery that is made is thought most wonderful, but it must be expressed in a simple statement. Formerly things were expressed in terms of poetry, in the form of music, in symbolic pictures, so that a person might think and penetrate and understand, so that his soul might be touched after it unfolded itself by the fineness of what he saw or heard. All the great scriptures of the past were given in such a form, never in a crude form.
Today a man comes and says, 'will you tell me about truth. I want truth in simple words.' But truth is never told in simple words; besides, that which can be spoken of in simple words cannot be truth. Truth should be distinguished from facts; it is something that must be realized, discovered. Sometimes when I meet those who want to find tangible truth I feel inclined to write on a piece of stone TRUTH, and to give it to them and say, 'hold it fast; here is tangible truth!'
How does one benefit by a belief in God? How is the knowledge of God acquired if belief in God is sufficient? The thousands and millions of people who believe in God, are they all progressive and happy? It is not so. Belief is the first step; the second step is to know the relationship between God and man. In order to understand this, one must be able to concentrate, to contemplate, to meditate, so as to forget the false identity, which one has conceived in one's mind from the time one was born on earth. All the different methods that sages and seers have taught humanity are to help one to forget that false conception of self. And the method one can adopt to discover truth is the knowledge of God, and by making proper use of this in one's prayers, in one's concentration, in one's practices. In these one benefits by means of the God-ideal and one comes in this way to the self-realization, which is the fulfillment of life's purpose.