The Mystical Ideal
This is a brief excerpt from
Pages in the Life of a Sufi written by Inayat Khan's
brother Musharaff Khan (1895-1967).
It is not within the scope of this small book to
give a detailed account of our travels, or to explain Inayat Khan's philosophy
with any fullness. But I may still mention a few of the chief ideas of the Sufi
Message which he sought to make more widely known. He was fond of picturing this
world and the surrounding space as a vault, a dome, in which every movement and
thought has its echo. This echo returns as the answer to each word and deed.
Religion is the recognition of this law, and the further one proceeds into the
inner and spiritual life, the more clearly one understands reward and
punishment, success and failure, the echo and re-echo of cause and effect. It is
the desire of the mystic to fill this dome with sounds that are harmonious and
pleasing and beneficent to man.
We believe that there is a law and order
in the architecture of the Universe. We believe it is possible for man to gain
an insight into the working of this law. And that every line of life which gives
scope to the intelligence, progresses towards this law and becomes in the end a
spiritual life. The nature of this law is symbolically expressed in religion,
but with religious people symbolisms may become fixed and lose their original
meaning and vitality.
The history and evolution of the world has,
according to the Sufi, covered a far vaster period of time than is generally
estimated by modern thought. And in his perception, the Universe appears as
having its limits, although these are beyond the grasp of human definition. He
finds that the whole is subject to a law which works in every part; and that
knowledge of a part leads to knowledge of the whole. "Verily not one atom is
moved without moving the whole Universe." As Jesus Christ has said, even the
hairs of the head are numbered and a sparrow is of account.
But what is
the mystical life? "Be ye perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect", this is
the divine precept. Mysticism is the progress to this perfection. There are two
lines of progress. There is the perpendicular line by which one may rise through
purification, by knowledge of the self, into another life, different from this
life of the senses and matter, into a spiritual life. And there is the
horizontal line of progress, by which, through gradually extending sympathy, one
may learn to know and love one's neighbour as one's self, and so learn the
divine love which is unlimited. The ancient symbol of the Cross, the cross which
every architect will tell you is the basis of every structure, is a symbol of
the joining of these two lines of progress towards connection with Divinity.
Both lines of progress lead towards the same goal, since spirit and matter are
one, both being manifestations of the central Reality.
veils separate man on earth from God, the One Reality. The veils have given man
forgetfulness, nisyan, and for this reason man is called insan. Man is in prison
separated from God by these veils, and the whole purpose of Sufism and the
mystics is to find a way of liberation from this prison, and to unite him again
with God, while still in this body. The body is not to be put off, it is to be
made fine, a help and not a hindrance.
The Murshid or teacher in the Sufi
teaching helps the disciple, making his way smooth through the different stages
of this spiritual path, so that he may overcome the nafs, the false ego, which
is the consciousness of the dark veils of separation, and that he may recognize
his real self, and regain consciousness of God and of his inheritance as a son
A man feels safe on dry land, for there he can stand firm. But he
fears the ocean, for he may drown there, he may lose his life in the deep
waters. Thus man fears mysticism; but the mystic risks the life in this everyday
world in order to walk also in a world which is not a material world, to walk in
a world which in contrast may be called a world of waters. He pictures himself
as walking on the waters or as being, like a fish, at home in them. How
marvellous that a little fish should know its way in the rivers and seas.
And the mystic describes his sustenance as not only of this world, but as
caught for him also in that other world. He has described it as a fish that is
caught by a holy virgin, which means by sincerity and purity of motive and
purpose. Thus in all countries and ages, the fish has been used as a symbol of
the mystical life, and of the mystic food which gives a foretaste of heaven.
The mystic is the free man. In this changing life on earth there is one
thing which is real, says the Sufi: that is that part of one's self which
receives the impression. Man too often puts himself in a spider's place, making
his own web. He becomes so dependent and imprisoned in his web that, which of
his thoughts are his own? But the mystic learns through his journeying to be
conscious of his immortal soul, and thus he learns freedom, and enters with joy
into the service of his life on earth and his divine inheritance. Everyone has
at times a high feeling, a heroic feeling, a feeling of liberation, of happiness
and gratitude unlimited. To live upon this note is the best prayer. This high
feeling is the mystic's reward and his aim. It is his Saki (cup-bearer,
wine-giver), offering him his wine, pressed from the vine of life.
Musharaff Moulamia Khan, Pages in the Life of a Sufi,
East-West Publications, 1982