Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section III - The Soul: Whence and Whither?
What is this journey taken by the soul from the source to manifestation, and from manifestation back to the same source which is the goal? Is it a journey, or is it not a journey? It is a journey in fact and not a journey in truth. It is a change of experience which makes it a journey, a story; and yet a whole journey produced in moving pictures is in one film which does not journey for miles and miles, as it appears to do on the screen.
Do many journey, or one? Many while still in illusion; and one when the spirit has disillusioned itself. Who journeys, is it man or God? Both and yet one the two ends of one line. What is the nature and character of this manifestation? It is an interesting dream. What is this illusion caused by? By cover upon cover; the soul is covered by a thousand veils. Do these covers give happiness to the soul? Not happiness, but intoxication. The farther the soul is removed from its source, the greater the intoxication. Does this intoxication help the purpose of the soul's journey towards its accomplishment? It does in a way, but the purpose of the soul is accomplished by its longing. And what does it long for? Sobriety. And how is that sobriety attained? By throwing away the veils which have covered the soul, and thus divided it from its real source and goal. What uncovers the soul from these veils of illusion? The change which is called death. This change can be forced upon the soul against its desire, and is then called death. This is a most disagreeable experience like snatching away the bottle of wine from a drunken man, which is most painful to him for a time. Or the change can be brought about at will, and the soul throws away the cover that surrounds it and attains the same experience of sobriety while on earth, even if it be but a glimpse of it. This is the same experience which the soul arrives at after millions and millions of years, drunk with illusion; and yet not exactly the same.
The experience of the former is Fana, annihilation, but the realization of the latter is Baqa, the resurrection. The soul, drawn by the magnetic power of the divine Spirit, falls into it with a joy inexpressible in words, as a loving heart lays itself down in the arms of its beloved. The increase of this joy is so great that nothing the soul has ever experienced has made it so unconscious of the self; but this unconsciousness of the self becomes in reality the true self-consciousness. It is then that the soul realizes fully that 'I exist'.
But the soul which arrives at this stage of realization consciously has a different experience. The difference is like that of one person having been pulled, with his back turned to the source, and another person having journeyed towards the goal, enjoying at every step each experience it has met with, and rejoicing at every moment of this journey in approaching nearer to the goal. What does this soul, conscious of its progress towards the goal, realize? It realizes with every veil it has thrown off a greater power, and increased inspiration, until it arrives at a stage, after having passed through the sphere of the jinns and the heaven of the angels, when it realizes that error which it had known, and yet not known fully; the error it made in identifying itself with its reflection, with its shadow falling on these different planes.
It is like the sun looking at the sunflower and thinking, 'I am the sunflower', forgetting at that moment that the sunflower is only its footprint. Neither on the earth-plane was man his own self, nor in the sphere of the jinns, nor in the heaven of the angels. He was only a captive of his own illusion, caught in a frame; and yet he was not inside it, it was only his reflection. But he saw himself nowhere, so he could only identify himself with his various reflections, until his soul realized, 'It is I who was, if there were any. What I had thought to be myself was not myself, but was my experience. I am all that there is, and it is myself who will be, whoever there will be. It is I who am the source, the traveler, and the goal of this existence.
'Verily truth is all the religion there is; and it is truth which will save.'