THERE IS an awakening from childhood to youth and from
youth to mature age and during this development one's point
of view, one's outlook in life changes. Also sometimes in
one's life, when one has gone through an illness or a great
suffering, at the end of it the whole outlook on life has
changed. One also sees that a person who has taken a long
journey after having come back has quite changed. Also after
a friendship, after a pupilship, after a marriage a sudden
change comes in the outlook of a person, and we find that
there are some cases where the change is so great that we
may say that he is an entirely new person. Seeing this we
can divide such changes which may be called developments
into three classes.
One class pertains to the physical development, another
is connected with the development of the mind and the third
class with the development of the soul. There are instances
in the lives of many – who rarely will say or admit it –
that they can recollect experiences in their childhood when
in one moment's time their whole outlook on life changed.
As ripening is a desired result, it is the result of every
object in life to ripen and to develop. Therefore the fulfillment
of life's purpose is to be expected in the awakening of
One may ask what are the signs of the soul's awakening.
The first sign of this awakening is just like the birth
of an infant. From the time of its birth the infant is interested
in hearing something, any sound that comes, and in seeing
something, a color or light, whatever it be attracted to.
And thus a person whose soul has awakened becomes awake
to everything he sees and hears. Compared to that person
everyone else seems to be with open eyes and yet not to
see, to be with open ears and yet not to hear. There are
many with open ears, but there is rarely one who hears,
and there are many with open eyes, but there is hardly one
who sees. It is therefore that the natural seeing of the
awakened soul is called clairvoyance and his natural hearing
clairaudience. In English there is the simple word 'seer'
which explains that this person not only has eyes, but together
with eyes he has sight.
The moment the soul has awakened music makes an appeal
to it, poetry touches it, words move it, art has an influence
upon it. It no longer is a sleeping soul, it is awake and
it begins to enjoy life to a fuller extent. It is this awakening
of the soul which is mentioned in the Bible, 'Unless the
soul is born again it will not enter the kingdom of heaven'.
Being born again means that the soul is awakened after having
come on earth, and entering the kingdom of heaven means
that this world, the same kingdom in which we are standing
just now, turns into heaven as soon as the point of view
has changed. Is it not interesting and most wonderful to
think that the same earth we walk on is earth to one person
and heaven to another? And it is still more interesting
to notice that it is we who change it; we change it from
earth into heaven, or we change it otherwise.
This change comes not by study, nor by anything else,
but only by the changing of our point of view. I have seen
people seek after truth, study in books about it, write
many books on theology, and in the end they were in the
same place where they were standing before. This shows that
all outer efforts are excuses. There is only one thing that
brings us before reality and that is the awakening of the
All tragedy of life, all misery and inharmony are caused
by one thing and that is lack of understanding. Lack of
understanding comes from lack of penetration. The one who
does not see from the point of view from which he ought
to see becomes disappointed because he cannot understand.
It is not for the outer world to help us to understand life
better; it is we ourselves who should help ourselves to
understand it better.
Then there is a further awakening which is a continuation
of what I have called the awakening of the soul. The sign
of it is that the awakened person throws a light, the light
of his soul, upon every person and every object and sees
that object, that condition in this light. It is his own
soul which becomes a torch in his hand, it is his own light
that illuminates his path. It is just like throwing a searchlight
upon dark corners which one did not see before, and the
corners become clear and illuminated again. It is like throwing
light upon problems that one did not understand at first;
it is like seeing with x-rays persons who were a riddle
Since life becomes clear to the awakened soul it shows
another manifestation: every aspect of life becomes communicative
with him. The idea is that life is communicating, the soul
is communicating, but they do not communicate until a person
is awakened. Once a soul is awakened it becomes communicative
As a young man I had a great desire to visit the shrines
of sages, of great teachers. With every desire of hearing
something of them or of asking them something I always held
my tongue back. I sat quiet in their presence and had a
great satisfaction and felt a greater blessing by sitting
quiet there than if I had discussed and argued and talked
with them; for in the end I felt that there was a communication
which was much more satisfactory than these outer discussions
and arguments of people who know not what they discuss.
It was enlightening, it was refreshing and it gave that
power and inspiration with which one can see life in a better
light. Those who are awakened become lights, not only lights
for themselves but also lights for others. These may not
know it but their light, their presence itself helps to
make the most difficult problems easy. This brings us to
realize the fact that man is light, as the Scriptures have
said, a light whose origin, whose source is divine. And
when this light is raised then life becomes quite different.
When the soul is awakened furthermore its condition is
then as that of a person sitting in the midst of the night
among hundreds and thousands of people who are fast asleep.
The picture is that he is sitting among them, standing among
them, he is looking at them, hearing of their sorrows, miseries
and conditions – hundreds of them moving about in their
sleep, in their own dreams, not awake to the condition of
the other one who is next to them. They may be friends or
relations or acquaintances or enemies; whatever be their
relationship, little they know about one another, each one
absorbed in his own troubles. This awakened soul standing
among them all will listen to everyone, will see everyone,
will recognize and realize all they think and feel, but
his language no one understands; his thoughts he cannot
explain to anyone; his feelings he cannot expect anyone
to feel. He feels lonely and nothing else can be felt. No
doubt in that loneliness there is a sense of perfection,
because perfection is loneliness.
When it was said that the apostles knew all languages
at the descent of the Holy Spirit, it did not mean knowing
the languages of all countries. They knew the language of
the soul; for there are several languages which are spoken
in different lands, but numberless languages are spoken,
as each individual has his particular language. That brings
us to realize another idea of very great importance: the
outer language can convey only outward things and feelings
to one another, but there is an inner language, a language
which can be understood by souls who are awakened. It is
a universal language, a language of vibrations, a language
of feeling, a language which touches the innermost sense.
Heat and cold for instance are different feelings which
are called by different names in different countries, but
inwardly they are the same feelings. So there is love and
hate and kindness, harmony and inharmony which are all called
by different names in different countries, but their feeling
is the same experience for all men.
When in order to know the thought of another we depend
upon his outer word then no doubt we fail to understand,
for perhaps we do not know that person's language. But if
we can communicate with him soul to soul we can certainly
understand what he means, for before he says a word he has
said it within himself, and that word reaches us before
it is expressed outwardly. Before the word is spoken the
expression says it; before the thought has formed, the feeling
speaks of it. And this shows that it is a feeling which
forms a thought, a thought which comes as speech. Even before
this a feeling existed, and even there it can be caught
when one is able to communicate with the soul. This is what
may be called communication: to communicate with the innermost
being of a person. But who can communicate? The one who
knows how to communicate with himself, the one who in other
words is awakened.
The personality of an awakened soul becomes different
from every other personality. It becomes more magnetic,
because it is a living person who has magnetism; the dead
corpse has no magnetism. It is the living person who brings
joy, and therefore it is the awakened soul who is joyous.
Never for one moment imagine, as many do, that a spiritual
person means a most sorrowful, dried-up, long-faced person.
Spirit is joy, spirit is life, and when this spirit has
awakened all the joy and pleasure that exist are there.
As the sun takes away all darkness, so spiritual light takes
away all worries and anxieties, sufferings and doubts. If
spiritual awakening were not so precious what would be the
use of seeking it in life? It is a treasure which nobody
can take away from you, a light that will always keep and
will never be extinguished. That is called spiritual awakening
which is the fulfillment of life's purpose.
Certainly, the things a person once valued and considered
important become less important. They lose their value,
and things which are beautiful lose their color. It is just
like seeing the stage in the light of the sun; all the big
palaces and decorations on the stage mean nothing. No doubt
this takes away the slavery to which everyone is put by
the things of this world; the awakened person becomes a
master, and at the same time he need not give those things
up. Optimism develops naturally, but an optimism with open
eyes. Power increases, the power of accomplishing things.
Then as long as a person has not accomplished something
he will go after it however small it is.
It is very difficult to judge an awakened soul, as they
say in the East, for there is nothing outwardly to prove
to you, 'this person is an awakened soul'. The best way
of seeing an awakened soul is to waken oneself. No one in
the world can pretend to be awake when he is still asleep,
as a little child by putting moustaches on his face will
not prove himself to be a grown-up man. All other pretenses
may be accepted but not the one of being an awakened soul,
for it is a living light which no one can pretend to be.
If there is any truth it is in the awakening of the soul,
for truth is born in this awakening. Truth is not taught,
truth is discovered.
Very often people make an effort – but in vain – to awaken
a friend or a near relation whom they love. But in the first
place we do not know if that person is not more awakened
than we ourselves, and we may be trying in vain. And the
other point is that a person may be asleep and needs that
sleep. Waking him would be a sin instead of a virtue. We
are only allowed to give our hand to the one who is turning
over in his sleep, who desires to awake. Only then a hand
This giving of the hand in esoteric terms is called initiation.
No doubt outwardly a teacher who is acquainted with this
path may give a hand to the one who wishes to journey, but
inwardly there is the Teacher who gives a hand who has always
given and always gives a hand to awakening souls, the same
hand which has received the sages and masters of all times
in a higher initiation.
Verily, the seeker will find sooner or later, if only
he keeps steady on the path till he arrives at his destination.
The words waking and sleeping are familiar to us as we
use them in expressing different conditions of life. Really
speaking, when we look at it from the point of view of the
soul, we sleep and are awake at the same time. For instance
when we are looking at a certain thing and our mind is fully
absorbed in looking at it, we do not hear things at the
same time. And if we are hearing something, absorbed in
what we are hearing, when our sense of hearing is focused,
our eyes may be open and yet we are not seeing. If that
is true it explains to us that when one sense is fully awakened
the other senses are asleep. In the same way, when we experience
a sensation through the mind the body is absent.
The more we look at sleeping and waking from a psychological
point of view, the more we shall come to the conclusion
that they are not as we understand them, but that every
moment of the day and the night we are awake and asleep
at the same time. To give another instance: when a person
is asleep and experiencing a dream, he is awake to something
and yet asleep to the outer things. To one world he is asleep,
to the other awake. So one is always asleep and always awake.
According to the ideas of the mystics there are five
stages of consciousness which make one asleep to one stage
and awake to another. One state of consciousness is our
experience through the senses. In this condition – as we
are just now, our eyes ready to see, our ears hearing –
we are wakeful to the outside world. This is one aspect
of wakefulness. Apart from this aspect which we alone recognize
as wakefulness there are four other aspects.
The second aspect of wakefulness is when a person is
asleep and yet is experiencing life exactly as he does on
this plane of the physical world. This is the dream state.
We call it dream when we are awake, when we have passed
that dream state. At the time of dreaming that state is
as real as this state in the physical world; we do not think
it is a dream. Nothing that we can find here is lacking
in the dream, and even things we cannot find here on the
physical plane we can find in the dream state. All the limitation,
all we find lacking in this life is provided for in the
dream state. All that we are fond of, all that we would
like to be, all we need in our life is easier to find in
the dream than in the wakeful state.
If we say that after waking up we find the real life
and call the other state a dream, and say therefore that
it was an imagination without reality, we think that on
this physical plane we are awake, that it is real. But is
yesterday as real as today? When we look back upon our childhood,
from the moment we came on earth all is yesterday; only
just now is today. All that is past is yesterday and if
it is not a dream, what is it? We need not only recognize
what we see in the dream as a dream; all that is past is
nothing but a dream as well. It is the 'just now' which
gives us the feeling of reality. What we are experiencing
– that becomes real to us; what we are not experiencing,
what we are not conscious of even at this moment does not
exist for us. Only what our senses are conscious of is all
the world, is life to us, and all we are unaware of means
nothing, does not exist for us.
In this way each person has his own life and his own
world; we all live in the same world, and each has his own
world. Man's world is that of which he is conscious and
in this way every person has his heaven and his hell made
by himself. He need not wait for heaven and hell afterwards,
he has already there what he has made for himself, what
he is conscious of. If he is conscious of sorrow and depression,
tortures and sufferings, pains and agitations, he lives
in all that. He has made a fire for himself and is standing
in it; he need not wait till death comes, he is already
there. The one who lives in beauty, compassion, affection,
forgiveness, appreciation for all that is good and beautiful,
has heaven here; he need not wait for afterwards. This again
shows that we are in the world to which we are awake, and
to the world to which we are not awake we are asleep. We
are asleep to that part of life which we do not know.
Another experience is that of a man who lives in music,
whose thoughts are music, whose imaginations compose music,
who enjoys it, to whom music is a language: he lives in
the world of music. He lives under the same sun as everybody
else, and yet his world is different. It is said that Beethoven
who could no more hear with his ears, very much enjoyed
the music he read and played, while perhaps another man
with good hearing did not hear it. The soul of Beethoven
was in music; the music he was playing was in himself, he
lived in music and enjoyed it.
There is one experience which we make through our five
senses, and that is one world, one plane of existence. Then
there is another existence which we experience in the dream,
and that is a world too. It is a separate world, its law
is separate. Those who consider a dream only as a dream
do not know the importance, the greatness, the wonders of
it. The dream plane is more wonderful than the physical
plane, because the physical plane is crude, limited and
poor, subject to death and disease. The other plane which
one experiences in the dream is better, purer, one has a
greater freedom there.
Dreams can be divided into four different classes. One
dream is a confused repetition of the same experience which
we had during the day in wakefulness. However confused the
dream may be, whether it be a repetition of all we have
done or said in our daytime life, yet this repetition has
a meaning, a great meaning. It has an influence in life,
it has an effect, as every thought and imagination has an
effect. We must not believe that what once we think or imagine
is lost. Every thought ever born lives without our knowing,
whether good or bad, harmonious or inharmonious. Once it
is born it is created and left in the world of thought to
live and to have its effect. A dream also is a thought and
is as living, or even more so, as is thought in the wakeful
state. Therefore every dream, however confused it may seem,
once it has appeared before us has a meaning and a certain
effect upon our lives. Also the dream in connection with
someone else in our lives in one way or another has something
to do with that person.
There is a second aspect of the dream and that is the
contrary dream. It is just like the mirror in which you
look short when you are tall, and tall when you are short:
just the contrary of what you are. In the same way, if there
is unhappiness, weakness waiting for you, you will see yourself
in that dream in great glory, and when happiness is awaiting
you, you will see yourself in misery. It is a kind of upset
condition of the mind that produces quite the opposite to
what is going to happen.
The third kind of dream is symbolical and it is most
interesting to study this aspect of the dream. If a poet
has a symbolical dream it is in the poetical realm. If a
fine person has a symbolical dream it has fine symbols,
for a rigid person it has crude symbols; it is all according
to a man's stage of evolution. The more one studies this
aspect of the dream the more one marvels at the phenomena
The fourth kind of dream manifests from the spirit and
is exactly the picture of the future. It may be a picture
of something going to happen the next day, next month, next
year, or perhaps ten years later. The law of these dreams
is that first a person sees a picture of what is going to
happen after twenty years. When he advances this comes closer
and closer: something going to happen after five years,
after one year, after six months, and so on. And then he
sees tonight what is going to be tomorrow. That is the realistic
The first kind of dream explains the condition of everyday
life. That dream comes to a person who is engrossed in his
work and has no concentration of mind. He is just like a
machine working all day long, and at night he sees his work
reproduced before him. The second kind of dream, showing
the opposite of what one is, comes to the person whose mind
is upset, confused, troubled and puzzled. The third kind
of dream, the symbolical dream, comes to a person who is
intelligent, intellectual, ethereally evolved. The fourth
kind of dream comes to someone who is already evolved, spiritual,
devotional, loving, kind, forgiving by nature, tenderhearted,
of gentle nature. This again tells us that man's reward
and punishment is not to be anticipated after death, but
given to him every day, every hour of life.
Now coming to the third stage of consciousness – this
stage lies between spirit and matter. It is this state of
consciousness which we experience as the condition of sleep
which we call fast sleep, deep sleep, when we do not even
dream. There is so little said about it and very few think
about it. Once a person studies this question of sleep he
will find that it is the greatest marvel in the world. It
is a living phenomenon. The rest and peace, vitality and
vigor, intelligence and life that come to a man during that
time of sleep is beyond explanation. Yet man is so ungrateful,
he is never thankful for this experience given to him every
day. He is only unhappy when he has lost it; then nothing
in the world can satisfy him. No wealth, no comfort, no
home, no position, nothing in the world can replace that
experience which is as simple as sleeping, which means nothing
and yet is everything.
The further we study the phenomenon of deep sleep the
more we shall come to understand the mystery of life. It
gives a key to the mystery of life, because it is an experience
of consciousness which divides our spiritual consciousness
between the physical and the spiritual world. It stands
as a barrier between two experiences: one in this world
and one which is reached by spiritual attainment. Our great
poet of Persia, Rumi, who has inspired millions of people
and whose works are considered in the East as the foundation
of higher knowledge, has written about sleep, 'O sleep,
it is thou who makest the king unaware of his kingdom; the
suffering patient forgets his illness, and prisoners are
free when they are asleep'. Imagine how all pains and sorrows
and limitations of life, all the tragedy of life, all sufferings
and agitations are washed away when one experiences that
It is a great pity that the mechanical and artificial
life we live today in this world is depriving us of that
natural experience of deep sleep. Our first fault is our
gathering and living in one city, all crowded together.
Then there are motorcars, there are houses of twenty stories
shaking every moment of the day and night, every vehicle
shaking it. We are a race at the present time which is unaware
of the comfort and bliss of the life known to the ancient
people who lived simply, who lived with nature, far removed
from this mechanical and artificial life. We are so far
away from natural life that it has become our habit; we
do not know any other comfort except the comfort we can
experience in this kind of life we live. At the same time
it shows that the soul is capable of attaining to greater
comfort, pleasure and joy, to greater peace, rest and bliss
only by living naturally.
These three stages of consciousness, physical, dream
and deep sleep, are each nothing but an experience of the
soul in an awakened state. For instance, when a person is
awake outwardly he is conscious of the outer world; when
he is fast asleep he is awakened to that particular plane
while asleep to both dream-land and the physical state.
Now you may ask, 'If a person who sleeps deeply is awakened
to a certain consciousness, why does he not remember it?
We think that he is asleep, for if he was awake he should
know something about it; if he remembers nothing it means
that he was asleep and certainly not awake. To be awake
means experiencing something; during deep sleep one does
When we are looking at a bright light and that bright
light is shut off then we see darkness. In reality there
is no darkness. If there had not been bright light first
there would not be darkness but light; it is the comparison
that makes it darkness. Therefore the experience we have
in our deep sleep is an experience of a higher and greater
nature. It is so fine, so subtle and unusual – our consciousness
being accustomed to the rigid experiences of the physical
world that the experience we have in that state is too fine
to be perceived, too fine to be brought back to the physical
Every experience can be made intelligible by contrast.
If there were no straight line, we could not say high and
low, right and left; it is the straight line which makes
us recognize them as such. If there were no sun we would
not be able to say south, north, east and west. Therefore
with every conception there must be some object to focus
upon which helps to form our conception. In order to understand
deep sleep we have nothing in the physical existence to
compare it with and therefore that experience of deep sleep
remains only as a great satisfaction, joy and upliftment,
as something that has vitalized us and has created energy
and enthusiasm in life. This shows that there is something
we receive; we do not come empty-handed from there, we have
attained something we cannot get here from the physical
plane. From there we receive something that we cannot interpret
in everyday language – more precious, more valuable and
vital than anything from the physical and mental planes.
There is a still higher plane or experience of consciousness,
different from these three experiences which everybody knows
more or less, and this fourth experience is that of the
mystic. It is an experience of seeing without the help of
the eyes, of hearing without the help of the ears, and experiencing
a plane without the help of the physical body – an experience
similar to that of the physical body and at the same time
independent of it. As soon as one arrives at this experience
one begins to believe in the hereafter, for it gives one
the conviction that, when the physical body is thrown off,
the soul still remains – independent of the physical body
and capable of seeing, living and experiencing even more
freely and fully. Therefore this stage of experience is
called the consciousness of the mystic.
Perhaps you have read in books of Eastern philosophy
the words nirvana and mukti, and you have
become frightened! Nirvana means to become nothing.
You may say, 'I do not want to become nothing'. Everyone
wants to become something, no one wants to become nothing.
Those who want to be something – although that can be taken
for nothing! – are so frightened of that idea. I have seen
hundreds and thousands who were interested in Eastern philosophy,
but when it came to being nothing they found it a difficult
idea to grasp and they found it frightening to think, 'One
day this 'I' shall be nothing'. But they do not know that
it is the solving of this question which allows one to be;
for what man identifies himself with is a mortal thing that
will one day expire, and he will no more find himself to
be as he had thought himself to be.
Nirvana therefore is the fifth and highest consciousness
which I am explaining now. The experience of this consciousness
is of a similar kind to that of a person in deep sleep.
But in the deep sleep one is asleep outwardly, which means
in the physical and in the mental body, while in the condition
of nirvana, or highest consciousness, a person is
conscious all through: he is conscious of the body as much
as of the soul. Then the consciousness is so evenly divided
while yet he keeps to the highest stage – that at that time
the person lives fully.
To conclude: what does the soul's awakening mean? The
body's awakening means to feel sensation. The mind's awakening
means to think and to feel. The soul's awakening means for
the soul to become conscious of itself. Everyone is conscious
of his affairs, of his conditions of life, of his body,
of his mind, but not of his soul. In order to become conscious
of the soul one has to work in a certain way, because the
soul has become unconscious of itself; by working through
its vehicles – body and mind – it has become unaware of
its own freedom, of its own beauty.
In the East there is a custom and a belief that the one
who sleeps must not be awakened. This is symbolical. Those
whose soul is asleep may just as well sleep. If one awakens
them they will be sick. It is not their time to awake. If
they awake too soon they will be confused, they will act
wrongly, speak wrongly. It is therefore that an untimely
education of the philosophy of truth always proves to be
The other day in London a friend of mine came from Ireland.
I told this person to stay in a pension near my place which
was a pension of the Theosophical Society. My friend came
next day to me very surprised and troubled. She said, 'I
am quite confused. In that pension someone came to me and
said, 'In my last incarnation you were my aunt'. Then someone
else came and said, 'You were my sister'. Everyone there
was my aunt, or friend, or somebody in a past incarnation,
and everyone is claiming to have been a king. No one wishes
to have been a poor man'. I said – you know that Indians
like humor – 'They must have committed a great sin to have
come this time as simple people'.
That shows how, when we give untimely philosophical education,
everything of subtle nature is made simple and is spoiled.
Do you think that they speak very much in the East? They
have respect, they do not talk, do not argue. All that is
of a sacred nature, aspirations that belong to a higher
world, they keep among some few who understand them and
do not speak about these things. Therefore there is that
custom never to awaken those who are asleep. When their
time comes then you can give them a hand and they will awake.
The first stage in the awakening of the soul is a feeling,
'is there not something else that I could know'. He feels
dissatisfied with all he knows, with all the knowledge he
may have, science, art, philosophy, or literature. He comes
to a stage where he feels, 'There is something else I must
know that books, dogmas and beliefs cannot teach, something
higher and greater that words cannot explain. That is what
I want to know'. It does not depend upon the age of the
person. It may be a child who has that inclination or one
who has reached age – and yet does not feel like it. It
depends upon the soul. Therefore in the East they call a
child an old soul when it begins to show that inclination,
when it is not satisfied with the knowledge of names and
forms and wants to know something else, although it may
not know what it is.
Then there comes a second stage, and that stage is bewilderment.
Imagine, an evolved person being more bewildered than an
unevolved one! And yet it is so, for he begins to see that
things are not as they seem to be but as they are. So there
comes a kind of conflict: 'What shall I call it: this or
that, good or bad, love or hate?'. There comes a time when
all that was accepted in his mind, all that he believed
to be so, appears to be quite the contrary to what it seems
His friends, his relations, those whom beloved, wealth,
position, all things he had followed, change their appearance
and sometimes become quite the contrary to what he had thought.
I will give you a little example of this bewilderment.
The other day in Chicago a lady came to see me, trembling,
in a very sorrowful state of mind. I asked her what was
the matter and she said she had had an accident. The house
in which she lived had been burnt, she had had to break
a window in order to get out, she had hurt her hand, and
it had all made a great upset in her life. But then she
said, 'It is not all that which makes me so upset'. I asked,
'What else?'. She said, 'The way how all my friends and
neighbors whom I loved and liked acted at the time when
the fire was on, has impressed me so that the whole world
is quite different now'. What does this mean? That friendship,
relationship, love, devotion may not be the same as they
appear when it comes to the time of test. Then there comes
a time when a person begins to look at things differently.
This reminds me of a word from the Prophet Muhammad,
who says in a kind of poetic form, 'A witch followed me
in the hereafter and I was frightened. I asked, What is
this, Lord, that is frightening me? And the answer came,
It is the same world that once you adored and worshipped
and pursued and thought so much of'. That shows that our
consciousness changes our outlook in life; it changes as
soon as our soul has opened its eyes. Our whole life changes.
We live in the same world, and yet we do not; it is quite
a different world then.
The next stage after this bewilderment is the stage of
sympathy. We begin to appreciate things more and sympathize
more, for so far we had walked on thorns and did not feel
them, but in this stage we begin to feel them. We see that
others are walking on the same thorns, so we forget our
pain and begin to sympathize with them. The evolved ones
therefore develop sympathy, a natural outgoing tendency.
Troubles, sufferings, limitations everyone has to go through,
everyone has to face the same difficulties. Not only the
good ones, the wicked one has a still greater difficulty:
he lives in the same world with his wickedness, he has a
great load to carry. So naturally the evolved one becomes
forgiving and sympathetic towards him.
As one goes further in the soul's unfoldment one finally
arrives at the stage of revelation. Life begins to reveal
itself, the whole of life, each soul becomes communicative
– not only living beings but each thing. They say that the
twelve apostles knew all languages. It does not mean that
they knew English, French and Italian, but that they knew
every soul's language, as every soul has its own separate
language. They began to perceive vibrations and so every
evolved soul will feel the vibrations of every other soul,
and every condition, every soul, every object in the world
will reveal its nature and character to him. Sadi, the Persian
poet, has said, 'Once a soul has begun to read, every leaf
of the tree becomes as a page of the sacred book of life'.
The word awakening is merely used for convenience, to
make you see it more clearly. In reality the soul is always
awake, the soul is never asleep. Day and night are two diverse
conditions, they are not conditions of the sun. The sun
neither rises nor sets. It is our conception; it is more
convenient to speak of the rising and setting of the sun,
but if anything rises and sets it is the world, not the
sun. So day and night are not conditions of the sun, they
are conditions themselves. When the world turns its back
to the sun it is night, and when the world turns its face
to the sun it is day. It is the same with the soul's awakening.
The soul is always awake, but what is it awake to? Someone
may be looking with open eyes, but what is he looking at?
Upwards or downwards or sideways? He is looking in a certain
direction and is conscious of that direction. To speak of
the soul's awakening therefore is for the sake of convenience.
What part in us is it that may be called soul? Is it
our body with its flesh and bones and veins and blood? Is
it our mind with its thoughts, imaginations, feelings and
emotions? Neither of these. Then what is it? It is something
which is beyond the body and beyond the mind. When one asks,
'Is it conscious', the answer is that it is, but its consciousness
is not as we understand it, for we know it as intelligence,
as being conscious of something. Everyone does not know
what consciousness means, but everyone knows what he is
For instance, a mirror with a reflection in it is not
only a mirror, but it is a mirror in which something is
reflected. This means that it is occupied, it is not empty.
When a person says 'consciousness ', he does not think of
the original condition of it; he thinks only of the consciousness
which is conscious of something. As soon as we distinguish
between consciousness and that which it is conscious of
we separate them, we see them as two things, just as we
can separate the mirror from what is reflected in it.
As soon as we realize this we will come to the conclusion
that the soul of the wise and the foolish, of the sinner
and the virtuous, is one and the same. The wickedness of
the wicked and the goodness of the good, the ignorance of
the foolish and the wisdom of the wise are apart from the
soul; the soul is only conscious of it. At the time when
the soul is conscious of it one says, 'Here is an ignorant
soul', but the soul is the same. It is not the soul which
is ignorant or wise; what is reflected in it is ignorant
or wise, wicked or virtuous. At the same time we should
know that if an elephant looks into a mirror, the mirror
is not the elephant, but one can see an elephant in the
mirror. If a man does not know what a mirror is he can say,
'Here is an elephant', but it is only its reflection; free
from this reflection it is only a mirror. The moment the
reflection is removed, the mirror will be a mirror as it
always has been.
So it is with the soul. Man makes it miserable, wicked,
ignorant, wise or illuminated by being conscious of these
things. The soul is neither the one nor the other. The soul
is only soul. However there is the difficulty that very
often people, having a certain conception of the soul, do
not see the idea of the mystic and say, 'a wicked soul,
a bad soul, a foolish soul'. But the soul cannot be that,
the soul is the soul, it is beyond any attributes.
Now one will ask, 'Where does the soul come from? If
it is conscious what is it then?' And the best explanation
that can be given is: the soul is the essence of all things,
it is life – but not life in the sense we understand it.
What we call life is a suggestion of life. The soul is the
real life. The reflection, which is only a suggestion of
the soul, we call life and one who moves and sees and hears
and acts we call a living being, but what is living in him
is the soul. The soul is not seen, therefore life is not
seen. Life has touched the person; so one sees the effect
of that touch in the person and one says, 'He is living,
it is life'. But what we see is a suggestion of life which
appears and disappears. Life is life, it never dies.
When one asks, 'What is intelligence?', we have the same
problem as with consciousness. One knows intelligence as
something which is intelligent, but there is a difference
between intelligence and intelligent. The intelligence which
has the reflection of a certain knowledge becomes intelligent.
But intelligence need not know: it is the knowing faculty;
just as consciousness need not be conscious of anything:
it is consciousness itself, it cannot witness it.
For instance, if one keeps a person in a dark room with
beautiful colors and pictures he cannot see them. His eyes
are open, his sight is open, but what is before him is not
reflected in his sight. What is there is sight, nothing
reflected in it. So it is with consciousness, and it is
the same with intelligence: intelligence which is consciousness,
and consciousness which is the soul. Why do the materialistic
and spiritualistic view differ? A materialist today says
that even biology shows how man comes from the animal kingdom.
There is a gradual awakening of matter to become conscious
and through the awakening to consciousness matter becomes
fully intelligent in man. So far science goes.
A mystic does not deny this. He says, 'It is quite true,
but where does matter come from, and what is matter?' Matter
is intelligence just the same, there is only a process.
Just like the seed – which is the root – manifests within
the heart of the flower, so in man intelligence manifests
through the development of matter. But intelligence which
is intelligent begins with intelligence and finishes in
Spirit is the source and goal of all things; if matter did
not have spirit in it, it would not awaken, it would not
develop. Matter shows that life unfolds it, that life discovers
it, that life realizes it: that consciousness which was
so to speak buried in matter for thousands of years. By
a gradual process it is realized through the vegetable and
animal kingdoms, and in man it unfolds itself and takes
its original condition. The only difference is that in this
finishing of the spirit, this fulfillment of the spirit
which manifests in man, there is variety: such a large number
of human beings, millions and billions – and in their origin
is one being. Spirit is one when unmanifested, and many
in the realm of manifestation. Therefore the appearance
of this world of variety gives man first the impression
of many lives – which produces what we call illusion and
keeps man ignorant of the human being. The root from where
he comes, the original state of his being, man does not
know. He is all the time under the illusion of the world
of variety which keeps him absorbed, interested and busy,
and at the same time ignorant of his real condition as long
as he is asleep to one side of life and awakened to the
other, asleep to the inner and awakened to the outer side
of life. Awakening of the soul is what the mystic calls
awakening to the source; it is the condition to awaken to
the reality of life.
You may ask how one awakens to this reality, what makes
one awaken, and whether it is necessary for one to be awakened.
The answer is that the whole of creation was made in order
to awaken. This awakening is chiefly of two kinds: one kind
is called birth, the birth of the body, when a soul awakens
in a condition where it is limited in the physical body.
This is one awakening and by this man becomes captive. There
is another awakening, which is to awaken to reality, and
that is called the birth of the soul. First is the birth
of the body, next the birth of the soul, as it is said in
the Bible. One awakening is to the world of illusion, the
other to the world of reality.
One must know that for everything there is a time, and
when this is not considered one makes a mistake. When one
wakens a person at two o'clock at night his sleep is broken;
he ought to sleep all night, it was necessary for him. Not
knowing this, people very often try to wake a person up,
their wife, husband, friend or relation, their child or
father. They are very anxious to awaken the other; often
they feel too lonely and think, 'This person is close to
me, he should be awakened too'. It is the same with the
one who smokes or drinks: he likes others to have the same
experience, just as it is too dull for a person in a cheerful
mood if the other one is so dull that he cannot laugh and
see the joke. Naturally therefore the desire, the tendency
of those who awaken to the higher life is to awaken others.
They cannot help it, it is natural.3
But very often one is too impatient with people and unreasonable.
Very often we make great mistakes wanting to awake a person
before it is time – when he ought to have a sleep. Also
we sometimes presume to be more awake than another, while
in reality the other may be more awakened.
There is a story of a wife who was religious and devotional.
One day she arranged a feast and her husband asked, 'What
is it for? Is it a religious day?'. 'It is more than a religious
day', she said, 'It is the greatest day in my life. There
was something which always kept me anxious and it has left
me now'. The husband asked what that was, and she said,
'Since I married you I thought that you had no inclination
to anything spiritual or religious'. 'Then what makes you
think otherwise?', asked the husband. She said, 'Today I
have realized, now I understand, that you are spiritual'.
'Do you? How do you know?' 'Well', she said, 'do not ask
me'. 'No, tell it to me'. She then told him, 'I heard you
say the name of God while turning over in your sleep'. 'Did
I', said he, 'Alas'. He fell down and died instantly. The
mystery was too sacred to him, something he could never
say in words. His feeling of devotion and worship was so
great that no church could contain it, it was vaster than
any church, greater than the universe. When that mystery
was broken it was as if a sacred seal was broken. He could
not stand it and died.
The other day I was touched to see a play in which a
student of the light of the higher ideals says the Word,
the sacred Word, and dies. The beautiful part was that there
was a prophet in the play who saw it and said, 'He saw beyond
What does death mean? Turning. The soul is always awake,
so it is always living. What is death? Death is turning:
the soul turns from one side to another. If a beautiful
voice comes from behind to which it wishes to listen then
it turns, it is attracted to another direction. This is
called awakening, awakening to a certain sphere to which
it was asleep.
It is no use trying to awake everybody; everyone is awakening
to something – if not to higher truth, then to lesser. The
one who has the privilege of being awake can give a hand
to the one who is trying to awake – to whatever plane it
may be. In the language of the mystic giving a hand is called
In order to get a clear idea of awakening I should like
to bring to your thought the condition which we call a dream.
Many give little importance to it. When one says, 'This
person is dreamy', it means that he is conscious of something
which is nothing. But is there really anything which we
can call a dream? The real meaning of dream is that which
is past. Yesterday is as much a dream as the experience
of the night: it is past. When a person is dreaming, does
he think that he is in a dream? Does he think that it is
unimportant? At that moment does he give it less importance
than his everyday life? He looks at it as a dream when he
is awakened to the other sphere, but while in the dream
sphere he will not call it a dream. When a person is asked,
'What about the experience of yesterday?', he will say,
'It was a dream, everyday life was a dream'.
The more one thinks of it, the more one glances into
the hereafter, and the more one will realize that what is
behind the veil of death, is awakening to another sphere
as real as this, even more real than this. What is real?
Real is the soul, the consciousness itself. What is past
is a dream, what will come is hope. What one experiences
seems real, but it is only a suggestion. The soul is real,
its aim is to realize itself. Its liberation, its freedom,
harmony and peace, all depend upon its own unfoldment. No
outside experience can make the soul realize the real.
Why cannot we see the soul? We can see the body and from
our thoughts we can think that we have a mind, because thought
manifests to us in the form of a mental picture. Why do
we not see the soul? The answer is that as the eyes can
see all things but themselves so it is with the soul. The
soul is sight itself, it sees all, but the moment it closes
its eyes to all it sees then its own light makes it manifest
to its own view. It is therefore that people take the path
of meditation, the path by which they get in touch with
themselves, with their soul. They realize the continuity
of life which is immortal life, they realize the independence
of life by getting in touch with their soul.
Now one may ask, 'What about those who come in this world
in a miserable condition, while others come in good conditions?
Is it not something innate in the soul?' No, it is something
that the soul has carried along with it like the load on
a camel: it is on its back, not within it. So it is with
the load of the soul.
Another question is, 'If the soul is awakened, how does
it awake, and who awakens it?' We see that the time for
nature to awake is the spring. It is asleep all winter and
it awakes in the spring. There is a time for the sea, when
the wind blows and brings good tidings, as if it awakes
from sleep; then the waves rise. All this shows struggle,
it shows that something has touched it and makes it uneasy,
restless; it makes it want liberation, release. Every atom,
every object, every condition and every living being has
a time of awakening.
Sometimes there is a gradual awakening, and sometimes
there is a sudden awakening. To some persons it comes in
a moment's time – by a blow, by a disappointment, or because
their heart has broken through something that happened suddenly.
It seemed cruel, but at the same time the result was a sudden
awakening and this awakening brought a blessing beyond praise.
The outlook changed, the insight deepened; joy, quiet, independence
and freedom were felt, and compassion showed in the attitude.
A person who would never forgive, who liked to take revenge,
who was easily displeased and cross, a person who would
measure and weigh, when his soul is awakened, becomes in
one moment a different person. As the emperor of India Mahmud
Ghaznavi has said in a most beautiful line, 'I, the emperor,
who have thousands of slaves awaiting my command, the moment
love has sprung in my heart consider myself the slave of
my servants'. The whole attitude becomes changed. Only,
the question is what one awakens to, in which sphere, in
what plane, to which reality.
Sometimes after one has made a mistake, by the loss that
mistake has caused, the outlook becomes quite different.
In business, in one's profession, in worldly life, a certain
experience just like a blow has broken something in a person
and with that breaking a light has come, a new light. However,
one is not always to be awakened by a mistake. No doubt
awakening very often comes by a blow, by a great pain, a
painful condition, but at the same time it is not necessary
to look for a blow. Life has enough blows for us, we need
not look for them.
There is a story of a peasant girl who was passing through
a farm while going to another village. There was a Muslim
offering his prayers on his prayer-rug in the open. The
law is that no one should cross the place where anyone is
praying. When this girl returned from the village this man
was still sitting there. He said, 'O girl, now what terrible
sin have you committed!' 'What did I do?' asked she. 'I
was offering prayers here, and you passed over this place'.
The girl asked, 'What do you mean by offering prayers?'
'Thinking of God', he replied. The girl said, 'Yes? Were
you thinking of God? I was thinking of my young man whom
I was going to meet, and I did not see you. Then how did
you see me while you were thinking of God?' That shows what
awakening means, what sleep means. She was asleep to the
Muslim and awake to the one she was going to meet. And he
was awake to something else than to the object of his prayer.
He was asleep to his object and she was awake. One's heart
is where one's treasure is. If it values a treasure it is
awakened to it. If it is not awakened to a treasure it may
be awakened to some misery. If its treasure is on earth
the heart is awakened rather to the earth than to something
In spiritual awakening the first thing that comes to
man is the lifting of a veil and this is the lifting of
an apparent condition. Then a person does not see every
condition as it appears to be, but sees behind every condition
its deeper meaning. Generally man has an opinion about everything
that appears before him. He does not wait one moment to
look or to have patience, he immediately forms an opinion
about every person, about every action he sees; whether
wrong or right, he immediately forms an opinion without
knowing what is behind it, ready to contempt. It takes a
long time for God to weigh and measure; for man it takes
no time to judge! But when the veil of immediate reason
is lifted, then one reaches the cause, then one is not awakened
to the surface but to what is behind the surface. There
comes another step in awakening when a man does not even
see the cause, but comes to the realization of the adjustment
of things: how every activity of life, whether it appears
to be wrong or right, adjusts itself. By the time he arrives
at this condition he has lost much of his false self. That
is what brings him there, for the more one is conscious
of the false self, the further one is removed from reality.
These two things cannot go together. It is dark or it is
light; if it is light there is no darkness. As much as the
false conception of self is broken up, so much more light
there is. On this path therefore a person sees life more
Another form of awakening is the awakening of the self;
one begins to wonder, 'What does my thought mean, what does
my feeling mean, what does wrong and what does right mean?
What is it after all?' A man then begins to weigh and measure
all that springs within himself. The further he goes the
more he sees behind all things, not only living on the surface
of life, but attached to all planes of existence. This is
a new awakening. Then a person has only to be awakened to
the other world; he need not go there. He need not experience
what is death, but he can bring about a condition where
he rises above life. This brings him to the conclusion that
there are many worlds in one world. He closes his eyes to
the dimensions of the outer world and finds within his own
self: 'You are the center of all worlds'. And the only thing
necessary is turning; not awakening, but turning.
Man has become motionless, stagnant by fixing himself
to this world in which he is born, in which he has become
interested. If he makes his soul more subtle in order to
turn away from this world he can experience all that is
said of the different worlds, of the different planes of
consciousness. He will find the whole mystery within himself
only by being able to make his soul so subtle that it can
turn and move.
One may ask, 'How can we make the soul subtle?' The character
of the soul is like water. By being stagnant it becomes
frozen like ice which does not move, and so it is with the
soul bound to the world of which it is conscious. It is
not unable to move, but that consciousness holds it; it
is like captivity. A Sufi poet shows the way out of it when
he says, 'You yourself have made your self a captive, and
you yourself will try to make your self free'.