Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE KNOWLEDGE OF PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
'What need is there of effort in life, if the future is already settled?' asks one. Says another, 'There is no predestination, for everything that happens is caused by ourselves.' A person may be trying to do good, and yet may always find it turning to bad. Such a one comes to ask, 'Is there any interference by spirits?' The Sufi studies what darkness is in order to understand the light. That is Sufism.
The artist paints a picture in three stages: preparatory, stage of action, and stage of completion – past, present, and future. The first stage is the design of the picture. That is predestination. We all begin with this. We are the manifestation of the eternal Sun, and therefore, all the attributes of the Creator must be in the creature. Before doing anything do we not plan it? In our mind we have created it. The Creator acted thus, and so do we. We do it with a pen. He does it with Nature. His art is nature. The Quran says that Allah taught man by the pen of His nature. It is our nature to create and by creating our art in harmony with nature, we can improve our skill. The art we produce is according to the nature of ourselves, for we are the creator.
Secondly, the picture appears on the paper. This is the present stage. Thirdly, the picture itself inspires the painter. As it progresses he sees that in a certain place there ought to be a different color. This is not right; that is not right, and so on. And as he looks at the picture, he sees its faults, and so he alters it here and there. So it is with each life. One stage of our life is predestined, the next part is that which we perform, and a third part of our life is that which is the effect of our actions. As we sow, so we reap. All that we do, we see in its reaction, and the reaction changes our life. The painter sees he must finish the picture differently, and so our actions tell us whether we ought to act differently.
A man always wants to know things he does not know. This dates from infancy. Children break things to see what is inside. But man does not know how to know. He expects too much. When he knows how to know, then heaven and earth are both revealed to him. If we want to see what is on the seventh floor, we must leave the ground floor. If we are on the first floor and cannot get to the higher floors, it means, as mysticism shows, that we certainly do wish to go up, but are captives on the first floor. That is the captivity.
Rumi said, 'The bamboo flute, what is it that the flute says that makes you like it so much? Why does it mourn? Why does it so attract your attention? What is it that appeals to you? It mourns for the separation that it suffers because it has been parted from its home, and has lost its original plant, the bamboo. It was cut off from its proper place. It mourns for the days when it was one with the whole bamboo tree. It mourns for the joy and the peace, which it has enjoyed, but can never receive again. It is the parting for which it mourns, and through which it appeals to you.'
So it has been with man. Man wishes to know about God, about heaven, about things unknown, and about the world unseen, and he thinks he can see them from the first floor. He is not ready to believe there is anything on the seventh floor. He thinks there is no such thing as the seventh floor, nothing but the first. If he were freed from this delusion, and if he were allowed to go to the other floors, then he would be able to see what the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors contain. And then he would know there is something through which one can gain a knowledge of past, present, and future.
Suppose on the third floor there was a machine, which produced instruments, one would know that on the first floor there must be a store of materials, and on the second floor they must be assembled in groups. On the third floor they are turned into usable appliances and one can guess what is likely to be on the fourth floor.
Thus it is said in the Hadith that God sent His servant, the Prophet, in the middle of the night to the sphere of heaven, where He showed him such signs as He desired to show him. In other words, God wants the one, who wishes, to realize Him, to know life. It is His desire that he may see the signs that God previously makes and arranges, and also the things, which can be seen by rising to the third and fourth floors.
The floors represent planes of existence. We do not exist only on the earthly physical plane. Being absorbed in this plane makes us awake to it, but blind to the others. Language fails to explain the things of heaven. Those who have the experience of such things are bound to be silent, because there is no language to express them.
As a matter of fact, all the floors are really here. But, as long as we are not able to see these floors, we are only on the first. Then, too, this mortal part must die. But we can die in this respect now, and pass on now to a perception that is beyond. The several floors are nothing but clothing. In this life, the light is hidden under a bushel. The bushel is the physical body. The light cannot be disclosed until the mortal part is removed.
If we depend on our eyes for sight, and our ears for hearing, and our mouth for speech, we are still dead. But we sometimes experience in life that which we see without eyes, hear without ears, and express without speech. If we have once seen without eyes, does it not show that we can see without eyes? Can we not see in a dream without eyes? Therefore, the faculty of seeing and hearing is in us. But, as we always depend on the physical body, on the physical eyes and ears, we become helpless and subject to death.
The teaching of immortality is to awaken. We must rise above the physical and material conditions if we are to live at all. We must aim at being independent of physical sight and hearing. We know that if we really want to understand a thing, we close our eyes because we can see it better. If we are thinking in this manner, it means that we are listening to some thought coming from some other plane. At such a time we want to cut off and stop outward sound or sight. All the meditations and concentrations of the mystics, as well as their dreams, are their journeys to the inner planes. It is necessary, if the soul has the desire to know the past, the present, and the future, to satisfy its desire by a contemplative life. The more tired and exhausted the mind, the more is meditation needed.
Sages, such as St. Francis, have spoken with rocks, birds, and animals, not as we talk, but by means of an insight into things. And every object expressed itself to them, speaking to them about its past, its present, and its future.
How wonderful that the animals and birds also know the future! Horses, dogs, cats know when someone is going to die. Yet, man does not know it. Why should he not know it? Because his soul is so absorbed in the earth plane and in earthly things, which the birds and beasts and animals are free from. For they sit quietly and meditate and concentrate. Man never sits quietly. Therefore, the animals and birds, through their silence, are capable of knowing what man does not know. All man's activity brings death and decay much sooner; intuition is stifled.
The soul has the tendency to look forward to what is going to be, or at what has been in the past. It is the light of our soul, the intelligence that does this. Intelligence working through physical means is no greater than intellect. But intelligence working freely and independently from physical means is wisdom. And wisdom is not cleverness, but infinitely superior to it. Wisdom works independently of the physical means, and therefore, requires intuition. The clever person works by means of his physical body, but the wise person works independently of it.
Palmistry, astrology, and the like: are they the best means of knowing the future? All these means are right, none is wrong. There is always truth everywhere. The eye must look, and at whatever it looks, the seer will see. It is not necessary for the vision to be in a certain symbol or tea-cup. It is as open as a book wherever the seer looks.
The master knows everything that goes on in a factory. But the workers only know what goes on just where they are working. The master sees all. One person sees a square, another a street, another a house, another less still. But the one at the top of the tower will see all of these. The seer will see all in his consciousness, and wherever he casts his glance, he will see still more clearly. As Sadi says, 'Each leaf of a tree becomes a book of revelation to the one who sees. And he reads the whole of nature as a book.'