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Volume V - Spiritual Liberty


Chapter III


People have different motives for attaining knowledge. Some attain it to gain power, occult or psychic, some for inspiration, and some out of curiosity, to see if there is really something behind the wall that stands between human perception and the life unseen.

In reality, none of these motives are true ones to have for spiritual attainment. Life in the world may be likened to a journey, and the real desire of the soul is to reach the goal. The soul is the point whence life starts and where it ends. All religions at different times have taught man the way that seemed most desirable, the way to make his journey easy and joyful. One person goes to Mecca on horseback, the other riding on a camel, another traveling on foot. The experience and joy of each is different, though all journey to the same goal. So it is with us. All the virtuous and wicked and wise and foolish among us tread the same path and reach the same goal in the end. The difference being that some go with closed eyes and some with open, some on the back of an elephant, and some, weary and worn, journey on foot.

The mystics, therefore, try by the study and practice of the deeper side of life to make this path of life's journey smooth. Amir says, 'Beware, O travelers, the path has many charms. Men and robbers and thieves are all along this path.' The real robbers and thieves are our attachments and temptations that rob us of our life, every moment of which is an invaluable privilege, thus bringing to us all disappointments and sorrows, which are not natural and do not belong to us. The path of this journey is within ourselves. Just like the wide space, beheld by the eyes, which do not seem more than an inch wide, yet miles of horizon can be reflected in them.

So is the true nature of the soul. It is so wide, and there is a path that runs from the body to the soul, from man to God. A person sitting at the gate will perhaps sit there for a thousand years, and never get to the goal, but he who leaves the gate behind and proceeds further will arrive at the goal by contemplation and meditation.

The Sufi's aim is not power or inspiration, though both come as he proceeds. His only aim is to tread the path until he can arrive at the end. He does not fear how long it may take, he does not worry about what sacrifice he will have to make. He desires one thing alone, be it God or goal, the attainment of which is his perfection.


Though one sees different desires in different people, yet when one studies them keenly one finds they are all different paths leading to one common goal. When one realizes this one's accusations, complaints, and grudges cease at once. However, there is also a natural tendency in man to find the easiest and quickest path to reach the desired goal, and there is also the tendency to share his pleasure, happiness, or comfort with others, and it is this that prompted the prophets and reformers to help mankind on its journey to the goal. Those that follow in their footsteps, forgetting that moral, drag people by the neck to make them follow them, and this has brought about the degeneration of religions.

Christ said, 'In my Father's house are many mansions.' The Prophet has said, 'Every soul has its peculiar religion.' There is a Sanskrit saying, which perhaps deludes those who do not understand it, but which yet means the same thing: 'As many souls as there are, so many gods are there.'

The Sufi, therefore, never troubles which path anybody takes, Islam or Kafir. Nor does he worry which way anyone journeys, the way of evil or of righteousness. For every way to him seems leading to the goal, one sooner and one later, one with difficulty, and one with ease. But those who walk with him willingly, trusting in his comradeship, are his mureeds and call him Murshid. He guides them, not necessarily through the same path he has chosen for himself, but through the path best suited to them.

In reality, the goal is already there where the journey begins. It is a journey in name; it is a goal in the beginning and in the end. It is absurd to say, 'How wicked I am...' or 'How undeveloped I am for reaching the destination!' or to think, 'How many lives will it take, before I shall be ready to arrive at the goal?' The Sufi says, 'If you have courage and if you have sense, come forward. If now you are on earth, your next step will be heaven.' The Sufi thinks, 'From mortality to immortality I will turn as quickly and as easily as I change sides in sleep.'


A deep study of anything shows the seer that there is a purpose beneath it all. Yet, if one could look beyond every purpose, there would seem to be no purpose. This boundary is called the Wall of Smiles, which means that all purposes of life, which seem at the moment to be so important, fade away as soon as one looks at them from that height called the Wall of Smiles.

But as deeply as the purpose of life can be traced, there seems to be one ultimate purpose working through all planes of life and showing itself through all planes of existence. That is as if the Knower, with His knowing faculty, had been in darkness, desiring to know something. And in order to know something He created all things. Again, it is the desire of the Creator that has been the power which created; and, too, it is the materialized substance of the spirit, a part of Himself, that has been turned into a creation, yet leaving the Creator behind as the absolute Spirit, constantly knowing and experiencing life through all different channels, some developed, some undeveloped for the purpose.

This Knower, through His final creation, man, realizes and knows more than through any other channel of knowledge, such as bird, beast, worm, germ, plant, or rock. This one Spirit, experiencing through various channels, deludes Himself with the delusion of various beings; and it is this delusion which is the individual ego. He experiences, therefore, two things in His delusion: pain and pleasure; pleasure by the experience of a little perfection, and pain by the lack of it. As long as the cover of this delusion keeps His eyes veiled He knows, yet does not know; it is an illusion. He experiences all things, and yet everything is confusion. But as time goes, when this veil becomes thinner and He begins to see through it, the first thing that comes to Him is bewilderment. But the next is knowledge, culminating in vanity, which is the purpose of life. 1


Life, which is omnipresent and all pervading, divides itself as it proceeds towards manifestation in the same way that light divides itself when it projects its rays. Although there is originally no purpose in it, every activity and all activities when summed up make a purpose or purposes. In other words, it can be said that purpose comes after the activity, not before. When it seems to come before, it is the result of previous activity. For instance, it is true that the eyes are made to see, but in reality it is because the eyes can see that seeing is the purpose of the eyes. It is of course a poor example, for nothingness of purpose cannot be traced in objects visible and intelligible. It can only be traced in the origin of things.

The outcome of the whole of manifestation seems to be its knowledge. Therefore it is knowledge alone that can be called the purpose of the whole creation. It is not the knowledge of why and where that can be the purpose of life. It is the knowledge that gives complete satisfaction. There remains no part of one's being that is hungry. There is a feeling of everlasting satisfaction in knowing something that the knower can never put into words.

It is this knowledge that mystics call self-realization, and that is recognized by some religious-minded people as God consciousness, and by philosophical minds as cosmic consciousness. It is a knowledge which is self-sufficient; and in the moments that a soul holds this knowledge before its view no pain, or suffering, or weakness, or sorrow, or death can touch it. For this knowledge the whole world was created, and with this knowledge the soul's purpose on earth is fulfilled.


The mystical conception that all life is the divine light and the whole creation is made of that light, which is the light of God, has its evidence in all forms of Creation. In the mountains and rocks there are not necessarily separate and detached rocks. This shows that in the mineral kingdom life evolves collectively. Evolution may show singleness in the vegetable kingdom, and as every tree may be called single, so every leaf, flower, and fruit may be called single. A flower may be called single, trees and plants attached together may be called single, such as reeds and grass. The development is collective, and yet it shows singleness.

Singleness can be noticed among animals and birds, but individuality is found among men. All this shows the nature of the light: that at the source from which the rays of light start they do not start singly, separate from one another. It is a very collective light. At every step forward it separates, until at its end it takes the form of a separate ray.

Light has two tendencies: to open itself, and to withdraw, which may be likened to birth and death. Also it has a tendency to narrow itself and to expand. This is like the first tendency, only in a different direction. The former is in the perpendicular direction and the latter activity takes the horizontal direction. It is this idea which is symbolized in the cross.

These tendencies can be seen in every form, in its length and breadth. There is a certain time in life during which youth grows tall. After that limit, growth will spread in another direction. Therefore, the soul is that point of the collective light, which stands separate and aloof from other points. But the withdrawal of each ray within naturally enables it to merge into that collective light and life.


The word 'soul' is used by different people in different senses. But the manner of its connection with the body proves it to be divine. Therefore, the Sufi conception of the soul is that it is the divine part in man. The fire that comes from coal or wood is in reality the part of the sun that is in them. When the soul qualities arise in the heart of a man and show themselves, this proves that it is the divine part in him that rises, like the flame in the fire.

Soul is in all objects, both things and beings, but when it is recognized as soul, then it becomes a soul. It is of the soul that a Persian Sufi has said, 'God slept in the mineral kingdom, dreamed in the vegetable kingdom, awoke in the animal kingdom, and became self-conscious in man.' It is the description of the soul, starting in manifestation as one and manifested in variety.

The reason why one cannot see the soul is that it is the soul that sees all things, and the soul has to become two in order to see itself, and this can never be. As consciousness is realized by being conscious of something, and as intelligence is realized by the knowledge of things, so the existence of the soul can be proved by one's very existence. That part which exists in one, or which makes one existent, that part which sees, conceives perceives, and is conscious of all things and yet above all things is the soul.


The destiny of the soul with the mind and the body is a momentary experience when compared with the everlasting life of the soul. The soul with the mind and body are like three persons traveling together. The difference between them is that one depends for his life upon the other two – that is the body; and one depends upon one for its life – that is the mind; and one does not depend upon either for its life – that is the soul. That is why the spiritual person, who realizes being not as body and mind alone, but as soul independent of body and mind, attains to everlasting life. But for the experience of the external life the soul depends upon the mind, and the mind depends upon the body.

There is no object or being that has no soul, but the word, 'soul' is used in ordinary language only for that entity which is conscious of its individual being. The soul is the light, the mind is the furniture, and the body is the room. The furniture could be anywhere, and the room is a fitting place for it. But without light, neither room nor furniture is of any use, nor would life exist without soul.

The mind is created by the soul, yet the soul is independent of the mind. Just as the body is created by the mind, but the mind is independent of the body for its life. It is the life of the body, which we call life on earth, and it is the life of the mind, which we call the hereafter. It is the life of the soul that we call the life everlasting. Who lives with the body, dies with the body. Who lives with the mind will live long with the mind, and will die with the death of the mind; but who lives with the soul will live and live forever. Who lives with his individual self will live so long as his individual self lives, here and hereafter, and who lives with God will live the everlasting life of God. There is a saying of Nanak that, as a grain is saved from being ground in the mill by being in the center, so the worshipper who lives with God is saved from mortality.


The soul is the originator and producer of the mind, and the mind is also the originator and producer of the body. The soul produces the mind out of its own self. Yet the mind is constructed fully after the formation of the body, and the soul becomes a spirit after the formation of the mind. The soul holds the mind and the mind clings to the soul, as the mind holds the body and the body clings to the mind. The soul holds the mind as long as its activity is constructive, in other words, the soul holds the mind as long as it is engaged in the creative purpose.

When the activity of the soul takes another direction it withdraws itself from the mind. As long as the mind has power, it still clings to it, though it becomes exhausted as there is no hold on the part of the soul. This can be seen when the aged and ill begin to lose their memory and become uninterested in thinking, speaking, or hearing.

In the same way the mind works with the body. When the mind for some reason or other withdraws its activity, the body becomes disconnected from it, for it loses its hold of the mind. But if the body is still strong and healthy it clings to the mind; soon however it becomes exhausted and this causes death and disease.

Death is mostly caused by the withdrawing of the soul and the mind. It seldom happens that it is cause by the body, its weakness or disorder. When the activity of the soul and the mind is constructive and drawn within, the body with a disease or a disorder continues to live. The cases where people lie for years with disease and pain are proof of this.


The phenomena of the radiance of the soul are apparent to the student of the human body. The body with its perfect mechanism loses power, magnetism, beauty, and brightness, when the soul departs from the body. This shows that the power, magnetism, beauty, and brightness belong to the soul. But since they are expressed through the body, man attributes all this to the physical body.

When we consider power, we see that the hand is not so powerful in weight and strength compared with the weight it can lift. This itself shows that it is not the hand that lifts the weight. It is something behind it. And one can notice that physical power is not the only power, but real power is something else.

As to magnetism, there is no object nor any living creature that has as much magnetism as man. The magnetism of objects attracts man, but a keen study of life would show that objects are more attracted to man than man is to the objects. If they had only intelligence to show their attraction this fact would be clear to everybody.

There is a superstition in India that some people can light fires better than others, in other words, that fire responds to some more than to others. With plants and flowers one can see the truth of this even more. The touch of some people's hand will make them fade sooner than that of others, and certain people's touch or even glance, would make them die. Certainly, no living creature can feel man's magnetism as much as man, and yet even animals and birds are attracted to man sometimes more than to their own element. This magnetism of man is not necessarily of his physical body. It is his soul.

It is the same with what we call radiance or brightness. It is a light, something, which is quite apart from the physical body. No illness, weakness, or age can take away this brightness. Although it must be understood that illness is always caused by the withdrawal of the soul to a certain extent from the body, or by the incapacity of the body to a certain extent to hold the light of the soul.

Sometimes by stretching one's hands and body one feels renewed strength, and brightness come to one's mind and body. Sometimes, without reason one feels depression and pain in general, and laziness besides, for which no one can suggest a cause, except that the light of the soul closes and discloses itself. When disclosed, brightness, freshness, and strength come. But when closed, depression, darkness, and weakness come. By knowing this, we can realize that those who have sacrificed every pleasure, wealth, comfort, or power in life in their pursuit after the soul are justified. For a loss in pursuit of a greater gain is not necessarily a loss. Those who become independent of the physical body by meditation no doubt experience the state of the highest bliss and attain the everlasting life.


The heart of man is like a globe over the light of the soul. When the globe is dusty, naturally the light is dim. When it is cleaned, the light increases. In fact, the light is always the same. It is the fault of the globe when it is not clear. When this radiance shines out, it shows itself not only through the countenance and expression of a man, but even in the man's atmosphere. The soul-power, so to speak, freely projects outward, and the surroundings feel it. The radiance of the soul is not only a power, but it is an inspiration too. A man understands better; there is less confusion; and if he is absorbed in the contemplation of something, be it art, science, music, poetry, or philosophy, he can get inspirations clearly, and the secret of life and nature is revealed to him.

Love is the best means of making the heart capable of reflecting the soul-power – love in the sense of pain rather than as pleasure. Every blow, it seems, opens a door in the heart whence the soul-power comes forth. The concrete manifestations of the soul-power can be witnessed in the depth of the voice, in the choice of words, in the form of a sentence or a phrase, in every movement, pose, gesture, and especially in the expression of the man. Even the atmosphere speaks, though it is difficult for everyone to hear it.

The heart may be likened to soil. Soil may be fertile or a barren desert, but the soil which is fertile is that which bears fruit. It is that which is chosen by living beings to dwell in, although many are lost in the soil of the desert, and lead in it a life of grief and loneliness. Man has both in him, for he is the final manifestation. He may let his heart be a desert where everyone abides hungry and thirsty, or he may make it a fertile and fruitful land where food is provided for hungry souls, the children of the earth, strong or weak, rich or poor, who always hunger for love and sympathy.

1 - The word vanity is generally used in a very ordinary sense; there is no really good expression for the higher form of vanity. It is difficult to express this in any other way. The Hindus call it Vairagya, and the Sufis use the word Kibriya for divine vanity. It is God's satisfaction in the manifestation, which He wanted to create. But this is not the same as the satisfaction of the ignorant soul in its limitation. When it is in its proper place it is divine virtue. When it is out of its proper place it is a sin.   (from Volume VI, The Development of Personality)

checked 18-Oct-2005