Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
In point of fact, democracy is always spiritual. There cannot be a material democracy. People call any system democracy which appears or which claims to be democratic, even if it proves upon examination to be only a shadow of democracy. There cannot be two goals. There is only one. The birth of true democracy is in the spiritual ideal, and as long as there is no spiritual light to guide man's life, he does not know the real democracy.
There are two stages in the life of every individual, in the life of a nation, of a community, of a race, of the world: the minor period and the major period. The minor period is when a man realizes that there are others who have experienced life more than he, and that is the beginning of his career. He then accepts the help and advice of those who have more experience than he. This is the preparatory stage, which leads to democracy. No parents think it wise that from the moment the child is born it should be permitted to act without any direction or advice. What really happens is that when the minor, the preparatory period is despised, then instead of democracy, anarchy comes and takes its place. True democracy means rising from the lower stage to the higher stage, and false democracy is pulling those at a higher stage down to the lower stage.
In some respects a man shows childishness all through his life. Very often, too, he has the same characteristics that one sees in sheep which flock together. None of them knows where they are going, but one leads and the rest follow. One man cries democracy, and no one knows where it goes, what it will become, or what the result will be. As every moment in the life of a human being is one of growth and development in which he learns something of every kind of experience, so in every period civilization takes a certain direction, develops in a certain way, builds up something. Then spectators of this civilization can have two attitudes: the one who thinks it is not his ideal of civilization and wants to break it all to pieces, and the attitude of the other is that before wanting to break anything he first wonders what is good, what can be preserved and what should be discarded. This person can do a great deal of good by his attitude. He sees what is beautiful and valuable, and the whole that can be made of the existing parts. The tendency to destroy all the beauty and culture of life is not real democracy. Whatever nation or race has that tendency will destroy the beauty and culture of centuries. The right tendency is the one which comes from a spiritual ideal. The wrong tendency is the one which comes from man's egoism. What today is springing up as the democratic ideal comes from a material ideal. Men, revolting and agitating against others, who have some culture, beauty, power, or possessions, want to crush and destroy all these. But democracy born of a spiritual ideal is different. It teaches the true human brotherhood. It teaches the true equality of man, recognizing it in the source and goal of every person, which is always the same. A real democrat is the God realized man for whom the world is an open page. It is not he who destroys beauty for selfish purposes.
It is the realization of the beginning and the end, where we come from and whither we go, which is the real spirit of democracy, the realization of the one life. If there is not that idea of spirituality then there are only parties of democrats fighting for political aims, for business interests. This is no real democracy. It is a pretense. When a person has not yet come to that stage, where he can give his whole life for his ideal, what is he? Selfishness is a lock that closes the door to democracy. Today democracy is laid claim to by those, who are working on a basis of selfishness. Man, however, should consider not only national interest, but the interests of the whole of humanity. This should be his sacred duty. For a long time, nationalism has existed, and the war [World War I] has proved that nationalism cannot solve today's problems. There is a great good that man can do by this example in life, by an example of the absence of egoism. If any nation can do good, it will be by working not only for its own interests, and then others will follow, for it is the nature of the soul.
How can this spirit be awakened? No doubt every activity like the League of Nations, every institution of this kind is good, but not sufficient. What is needed is religious awakening. The awakening of that religion which is of every soul, not of a particular sect or faith. If the spirit of democracy is born, it will only be born in the hearts awakened to the spiritual life. Every faith and belief has its principles, right or wrong, good or bad. Some follow these, others do not. They are given to humanity for a certain race. Whenever a spiritual wave has come to the world, in the time when the prophets and great teachers of humanity, it has always been a great spiritual ideal to awaken democracy. In the scriptures of Zarathushtra, in the Bible, in the Quran, in the Kabbala, it is always the same voice teaching the equality of man and love for one's brethren.
Whenever there has been a wave of social reform, however good the service it has performed, it has never been able to kindle the spirit of universality. This shows that a reformer is the child of civilization. The prophet is the father. One ideal comes from the heart of an intellectual man, the other from the spirit of God, expressed by man.
The message of God is not a system which is only given for a certain period, after which the world is deprived of it. It is Alpha and Omega, and has pronounced softly or loudly the same words in all periods. Advancement or progress is not standing still and stopping at one ideal or principle. Progress is life. Standing still is death. When a person becomes hardened in his feelings, when his only interest is for the family or the nation, he does not go further, he is dead. But as long as he is advancing from a family to a nation, to a race, he is alive. He is progressing. The great disaster that has come upon humanity in recent years is caused by this death. The feeling confined in nationalism has burst out in conflict.
This is not only visible in nations, but also in religious forms, in communities. Destruction is always the result when man does not progress. The mystical explanation of this is found in the Bible, where it is said, 'In God, we live and move and have our being,' and it is said also that God is love, we can say that we live and have our being in love. When selfishness eats up that divine spirit which is in man, he is dead. His heart is dead; he is only seemingly alive. Many people seem to be alive, but only rarely do we meet one who is really alive.
The greatest progress is a constant expansion of the divine spirit. Expansion in any direction so long as the ideal of unity is applied, this is the ideal of the Sufis. It is not the desire of the Sufis that all should become members of the Sufi Movement. But the ideal of its members is to invite humans to become members of humanity. Sufism is not a new religion or community. It does not want to add a community to the world. It is an attitude of life, not taught by any particular principle or dogma. It is to tune oneself to a certain pitch, so that the heart can become tuned to the Lord. This is the only religion that exists; this is the only message that Christ gave.
There cannot be two religions, truths, or Gods, if our mind is clear. But to understand this religion it needs tuning. And to fight in order to make people believe this, is not the ideal. What is necessary now, is understanding another person's point of view, to see with two eyes instead of one. Why is there so much misunderstanding? It is because of using one eye instead of two.
There is another side to religion: the esoteric side, that part of religion which prepares man by prayer and other forms of worship to receive the blessings of God from within. Without that blessing, it is difficult to become illuminated. There comes a stage in man's life when he begins to inquire, 'Is this all? or is there still more to understand?' And that is why he starts looking for a teacher. It is this need in man's life which the Sufi Movement tries to help. It is the contact with the teacher, study, meditation, silence, repose, which makes one understand one's own religion, the inner side of religion. The Sufi's idea is that man in time may arrive at that stage of understanding, where he can hear the voice of God from all sources, all sides, all things, and all beings. There is a saying of Sadi: 'Every leaf of the tree becomes as a page of the sacred book, when the eyes are opened and the sight is keen!'