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Volume II - The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word

Part III: The Power of the Word

Chapter IV
The Power of the Word (continued)

There is nothing more important as a means of raising one's consciousness and nothing that can be of greater use and importance on the path of spiritual attainment than the repetition of the right word. When we look at the traditions we find that from the time of the ancient Hindu teachers who lived thousands of years before Christ, repetition of a sacred word was practiced. And so we find that in all the great periods, when a religious reform came to a country, the power of the word was considered to be of immense importance: for instance, at the time when the Jewish religion was given, and also in the early period of Christianity.

Mystical words may be used in different languages, but they do not exclusively belong to any one language. Take for example the phrase used in the practice of Zikr. It is found today in the Arabic language and one might think that it came from Arabia. But then it is used in the Persian language also; one who does not know its existence in Arabia might think that it came from Persia. It also exists in the Hindu language, and one who does not know of its existence in the other languages, might think that it was Hindu. It also exists in the Hebrew language. It consists of the same words which were repeated by Christ himself as his last words. Even those who came before Christ, mystics whose origin was the ancient school of Egypt, also repeated the same phrase. There are sufficient proofs of this fact: during the time of Abraham, who was initiated in the school of Egypt, these words were already in use.

One might ask what it is in a word that helps, and why it helps. In answer to this, I would say that there is no expression of life more vital than words; because the voice is an expressive manifestation of breath, and breath is life itself. Therefore, the spoken word not only makes an effect upon another person, but also upon oneself. And, every word one says has its effect not only upon one's body, but also upon one's mind and spirit. If one utters a tactless or foolish word it not only offends another, but can prove to be of great disadvantage to oneself.

Often a person in a pessimistic mood or in a disturbed condition may wish for death, wish for failure, wish for anything to happen. If he only knew what an effect such wishes have, he would be frightened. Even in pain, if a person could only refrain from saying: 'I am in pain', he would do a great deal of good to himself. If a person who has met with misfortune would even avoid saying: 'I am experiencing misfortune', it would be a great thing. For when a person acknowledges the existence of something he does not want, he only gives it a greater life. And when a person says: 'Oh, I have waited and waited and waited; my ship will never come', he is keeping his ship back; his ship will never arrive in the port. But the one who does not even see the ship, but says: 'It is coming, it is coming', is calling it and it will come.

Now, what I have said concerns the meaning of the ordinary word. But the mystical word has a far greater value than the words that one uses in everyday language. Mystical words have come from three distinct sources: intuitive, scientific and astrological. Intuitive words have come as sudden expressions from God-realized souls. Whatever word or phrase comes from souls which are tuned to the whole universe, is something which has a much greater power than the words in common use. But apart from spiritual people, there may perhaps be someone among our friends or acquaintances, whose one word has weight and power; whereas another person says a thousand words that go in at one ear and out at the other. And this is because in one person his mouth speaks, in another person his heart speaks, and in another his soul speaks. There is a great difference.

One might ask: 'How can a spiritual person intuitively bring forth a word which has power'? The answer is that a soul may become so much in tune with the whole universe that he hears, so to speak, the voice of the spheres. Therefore, what he says is like the echo of the whole universe. The person, who is in tune with the universe, becomes like a radio receiver through which the voice of the universe is transmitted. This is the personal aspect.

As to the scientific aspect, a deep study of human anatomy will explain that there are delicate nerve centers that can only be affected by certain vibrations, and upon which the equilibrium and the health of mind and body depend. Very often people have even been cured of illnesses by the use of resounding scientific words, because this has given to a certain center that vibration which was needed to give life to it. If one goes deeper into the science of the word one will find that every vowel and every consonant has its own specific effect upon one's mind and body. Very often you will find, before seeing a person, that on hearing his name you get a kind of impression of what that person is like. It shows that the name makes such a great difference in a person's character.

The astrological aspect, it is a very vast subject and it is connected with every art and science. Vowels and words have their connection with the astrological science. By invoking a certain word one invokes a certain planet, either in order to diminish its influence if it is unfavorable, or to increase its power if it is a favorable. Therefore, in India, every name given to a person is given in accordance with the astrological science.

Many holy scriptures give evidence of the power of the word. But where has the knowledge of that science gone, so well know to the prophets of all times. The science of the word has been lost to most of mankind. The reason for this is that man engaged himself in the things of the earth, and so has lost the ancient art. By losing that great science, that mystical secret, what has the soul attained? The soul has attained an increasing deafness, and this deafness increases as the more material life prevails. Nevertheless, in every period there have been some thinkers, some servants of God, working knowingly or unknowingly, to whom it was always clear that the word was lost, which means that the secret of the whole of life was lost..

This, of course, is an exaggeration. The word which exists cannot be lost, but man has lost his capability of knowing, of hearing that word. Man no longer heard the word from the sky: he heard it from the earth. The result was the great awakening and progress of material science. All the great inventions of this time, which are like miracles, have come to great minds which have so to speak communicated with matter; and matter has spoken with them face to face. All these great inventions are the answer from the earth to the communication of these great minds with matter. Thus, the word was not lost, but the direction was lost.

Man learns continually from the objective world to make things that he can touch and can make intelligible, but he is always disbelieving in matters which are not intelligible. In this way he has become far removed from the main part of life's mystery. Nevertheless, if at any time in the world's history man has probed the depth of life, he has found what he sought by communicating with the inner life, in artistic expression, and by communicating with the heavens. And what is that communication? It is the word.

When the Prophet Muhammad, felt the need to communicate, he went away from the town and remained in solitude on the top of a mountain; sometimes fasting, sometimes standing, and staying there night and day for two or three days. What did he find in the end? He found that a voice began to speak to him, a voice in answer to his soul's cry. His soul so to speak went forth, pierced through all the planes of existence, and touched the source of all things. How did the answer come and in what form? The answer came from everything: from the wind, the water, the sphere, the air – everything bringing the same answer.

This experience is not limited to a certain person or to a certain time. In our everyday life there are times when sadness comes, and it seems as if everything in the world, even the voices of beasts and birds, cause sadness. Then again comes the hour of profound joy. At that time the sun helps to give joy, and clouds covering the sun also give joy. The cold, the heat, the friend, and the enemy, all help to give joy.

This world to a mystic is like a dome, a dome that re-echoes all that is spoken beneath it. What is spoken from the lips reaches only as far as the ears, but what is spoken from the heart reaches the heart. The word reaches as far as it can; and that depends from what source it has come and from what depth it has risen. The Sufis of all ages have therefore given the greatest importance to the word, knowing that the word is the key to the mystery of the whole life, the mystery of all planes of existence. There is nothing that is not accomplished, there is nothing that is not achieved or known through the power of the word. Therefore the principal and central theme in esotericism or mysticism is the word.

But what is the word? Is the word just what we speak? Is that the word? No, that is only the surface of the word. Our thought is a word, our feeling is a word, our voice, our atmosphere is a word. There is a saying: 'What you are speaks louder than what you say'. This shows that even when man does not speak, his soul speaks. And, how do the fortune-tellers read the future? They hear it. They say that they read it from the lines of the hand, by astrology, or from the actions of men. But what is all this? It is all a word. Word means expression, expression in voice, in word, in form, in color, in line, in movement: all are united in one thing and that is the esoteric side of mysticism. Of course, many people in the West have said it is very difficult to lead a meditative life in the activity of their world; they have so many responsibilities and occupations. My answer to this is that for every reason they need more meditation.

I have heard many persons say that they have the greatest desire to give their time and thoughts to spiritual things, but because they have not attained a manner of living that leaves their mind free to attend to these things, they believe they cannot take up anything spiritual. I saw the reason of their argument. Because it is quite true that in this world, as life is today, it is difficult to move without money. Material things apart, even in spiritual things one cannot do without money. If I were to give a lecture and I had no room to give it in, it could not be done. And if there were no advertisements in the newspapers no one would know about it and perhaps two or three persons would be kind enough to come and listen to me. It is therefore natural that a person should think like this, and he is not to be blamed. But at the same time, when we look at it from a different point of view, we still see that every moment lost in waiting for spiritual attainment is the greatest loss conceivable. And besides, one may go on thinking: 'The day will come when I shall change my life and give in to something higher, something spiritual', and that day will never come! One has to do it today, just now, instead of saying: 'Tomorrow I will do it'. Otherwise one repents.

Life is assimilating; time passes. Hours, months, years slip by before one realizes that they have slipped by. To the one who understands the value of time, spiritual attainment comes first. As Christ said: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.' I do not say: 'Let all things go in order to pursue spiritual things'. Spiritual attainment does not deprive one of material gains. One has only to keep in mind that spiritual things must come first. In order to become spiritual it is not necessary to give up worldly things, or all that is good and beautiful and valuable from the point of view of the material world. Solomon, with all his wealth, was not less wise. One need not give up all one has in order to become spiritual. If one should think that, it is a great pity. But to wait and say: 'I shall wait till my ship comes. Then I shall become spiritual' – who knows when the ship will come! It is never too late to go onto the spiritual path, but it is never too early. The best thing, therefore, is that, the moment you think that it is already too late, you should begin and go through all the tests and trials of this path, confident that there is nothing that cannot be accomplished once the spiritual path is taken.

A person may say that he would have to overcome many weaknesses. But the way of getting above weaknesses is by meditation. When there are many responsibilities in life, one's very reason tells one that it is better to meditate and make the responsibilities lighter. It is not getting worried over one's responsibilities that helps one. It is being responsible, but at the same time being strong enough to shoulder one's responsibilities. There are words, which are known to the mystics, which do not belong to any language, yet the words of many languages seem to have sprung from these mystical words. And it is by the help of these words that one develops two faculties: seeing and hearing. By seeing, I do not mean seeing with the eyes, but penetrating. It is the penetrating quality of seeing that makes man a seer, and which is the real meaning of the word, clairvoyance. Nowadays, people have misused this word so much that one does not like to use it anymore. But then there is no word left in the world that has not been misused. If one were so sensitive about words, one would have to reject all language.

By hearing I do not mean listening. I mean responding; responding to heaven or earth; responding to every influence that helps to unfold the soul. Through the response and the penetration, which one gains by the power of the word, in the end one attains the goal; the goal which is the yearning of every soul.

checked 18-Oct-2005