Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section IV - The Purpose of Life
If a Sufi is asked what was the purpose of this creation, he will say that the Knower, the only knower, wanted to know Himself, and there was only one condition of knowing Himself, and that was to make Himself intelligible to His own Being. For Intelligence itself is a Being, but Intelligence is not known to itself. Intelligence becomes known to itself when there is something intelligible. Therefore, the Knower had to manifest Himself, thus becoming an object to be known. And by this knowledge the Knower arrives at perfection. It does not mean that the Knower lacked perfection, for all perfection belonged to the Knower; only He became conscious of His perfection. Therefore it is in the consciousness of perfection that lies the purpose of this whole manifestation.
The Sufis say, 'God is Love.' That is true, but the Love was not sufficient. The Love had to make an object to love in order to see its own nature, to experience its own character, to fathom its own mystery, to find its own joy. For instance, the seed has in it the leaf and the flower and the fruit. But the fulfillment of the purpose of that seed is that it is put in the ground, that it is watered, that a seedling springs up and is reared by the sun; it brings forth its flowers and fruits. This is the fulfillment of that seed which already contained in itself the fruit and the flower. A person who does not see the reason of all this is in the seed state. His mind is in the state of a seed which has not yet germinated, which has not yet produced its seedling, which has not yet experienced the springing of the plant.
No sooner does the soul begin to unfold and experience in life the purpose which is hidden within itself, than it begins to feel the joy of it. It begins to value the privilege of living. It begins to appreciate everything. It begins to marvel at everything. For in the every experience, good or bad, it finds a certain joy, and that joy is in the fulfillment of life's purpose. That joy is not only experienced in pleasure, but even in pain, not only in success, but also in failures, not only in the cheerfulness of the heart, but even in the breaking of the heart there is a certain joy hidden. For there is no experience that is worthless; and especially for that soul who is beginning to realize this purpose, there is no moment wasted in life. For under all circumstances and in all experiences that soul is experiencing the purpose of life.
This may be understood by a little example. A jinn wanted to amuse himself, but when about to do so, he brought upon himself a problem. For the jinn was powerful, and he said to himself, 'Be thou a rock;' and the jinn turned into a rock. But by becoming a rock, he began to feel solitary, left in the wilderness; he felt the loss of action, loss of movement, lack of freedom and lack of experience. This was a terrible captivity for the jinn. For many years, this jinn had to have patience, to change into something else. It did not mean that through the rock he did not realize life. For even the rock is living, even the rock is changing, and yet a rock is a rock. A rock is not a jinn. It was through the patience of thousands of years that the rock began to wear out and crumble into earth. And when, out of that earth, the jinn came out as a plant, he was delighted that he had grown out as a tree. The jinn was so pleased to find that out of a rock he could become a plant, that he could enjoy the air more fully, that he could swing in the wind. He smiled at the sun and bathed happily in the rain. He was pleased to bring forth fruits, to bring forth flowers.
But at the same time his innate desire was not satisfied. It kept him hoping some day to break through this captivity of being rooted in a particular place and of this limitation of movement. For a long, long time the jinn was waiting to come out of this limitation. This was better, yet it was not the experience the jinn desired. But at last the fruit became decayed and part of that fruit turned into a little worm. The jinn was even more delighted to feel that he could move about. Now he was no longer rooted to one place and unable to move. As this worm breathed and was in the sun, it grew wings and began to fly. The jinn was still more delighted to see that he could do this. From one experience to another he flew through the air and experienced the life of a bird, now sitting upon the trees, now walking on the earth. And as he enjoyed life on the earth more and more, he became a heavy bird. He could not fly, he walked. And this heaviness made him coarse, and he turned into an animal. He was most happy, for then he could oppose all the other animals that wanted to kill birds, because he was no longer a bird.
Through a process of gradual change, the jinn arrived at becoming man. And when a man, the jinn looked around and thought, 'This is something that I was destined to be. Because, how, as a jinn, could I see all these different bodies that I have taken? In order to become more free, in order to become perceptive, sensitive, in order to know things, in order to enjoy things more fully, there could not have been any vehicle more fitting than this.' And yet, he thought, 'Even this is not a fitting vehicle, because when I want to fly, I have no wings, and I feel like flying also. I walk on the earth, but I have not the strength of the lion. And now, I feel that I belong to heaven, and where it is I don't know.' This made the jinn search for what was missing, until in the end, he realized, 'I was a jinn, just the same, in the rock, in the plant, in the bird, in the animal. But, I was captive and my eyes were veiled from my own being. It is by becoming man that I am now beginning to see that I was a jinn. And yet I find in this life of man also a great limitation, for I have not that freedom of expression, that freedom of movement, that life which is dependable, that knowledge which is reality.' And then this thought itself took him to his real domain, which was the jinn life. And there he arrived with the air of a conqueror, with the grandeur of the sovereign, with the splendor of a king, with the honor of an emperor, and realizing, 'After all, I have enjoyed myself, I have experienced though I have suffered, and I have known Being, and I have become what I am.'
The Knower manifested as man in order that He might become known to Himself. And now, what may man do, in order to help the Knower to fulfill this purpose? Seek continually an answer to every question that arises in his heart. Of course, there are different types of minds. There is one mind that will puzzle and puzzle over a question, and trouble himself for something which is nothing, and will go out by the same door which he has come in. That person will trouble himself and will wreck his own spirit, and will never find satisfaction. There is no question which has not its answer somewhere. The answer is nothing but an echo of the question, a full echo. And therefore one must rise above this confused state of mind which prevents one from getting the answer from within or from without to every question that arises in one's heart. In order to become spiritual, one need not perform miracles. The moment one's heart is able to answer every question that rises in one's heart, one is already on the path. Besides, the thing that must be first known, one puts off to the last, and that which must be known at the last moment, one wants to know first. It is this which causes confusion in the lives of many souls.
The words of Christ support this argument: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.' This is the very thing one does not want to seek. One wishes to find anything else but this. And where is it to be found? Not in the knowledge of another person. In the knowing of the self. If a person goes through his whole life most cleverly judging others, he may go on, but he will find himself to be more foolish at every step. At the end, he reaches the fullness of stupidity. But the one who tries, tests, studies and observes himself, his own attitude in life, his own outlook on life, his thought, speech, and action, who weighs and measures and teaches himself self discipline, it is that person who is able to understand another better. How rarely one sees a soul who concerns himself with himself through life, in order to know! Mostly, every soul seems to be busily occupied with the lives of others. And what do they know in the end? Nothing. If there is a kingdom of God to be found anywhere, it is within oneself.
And it is, therefore, in the knowledge of self that there
lies the fulfillment of life. The knowledge of self means
the knowledge of one's body, the knowledge of one's mind,
the knowledge of one's spirit; the knowledge of the spirit's
relation to the body and the relation of the body to the
spirit; the knowledge of one's wants and needs, the knowledge
of one's virtues and faults; knowing what we desire and
how to attain it, what to pursue and what to renounce. And
when one dives deep into this, one finds before one a world
of knowledge which never ends. And it is that knowledge
which gives one insight into human nature and brings one
to the knowledge of the whole of creation. And in the end
one attains to the knowledge of the divine Being.