Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
ONE CAN see, one can look, and one can observe. These three words denote the same action, yet each word suggests something different. By observing we understand something about what we see; by seeing we take full notice of it; but by looking we glance at it without necessarily understanding it or taking notice of it. And so there are three conditions: looking at the surface of a thing, looking at a thing properly, and looking at a thing with real observation and understanding it at the same time.
Everyone notices things in one of these three ways. That which interests a man most, he observes most keenly; that which attracts his mind, he sees and takes notice of; and that upon which his glance happens to fall, he only looks at. And there are, therefore, three different effects made upon man by all he sees: a deeper effect of that which he has observed fully, a clear effect of that which he has seen, and a passing effect of that which had just caught his glance. This is the reason why there are seers, thinkers, and those who have only their two eyes.
There is another side to this question: a person who is walking gains a certain kind of impression of the route he takes; one who drives the same way in a motorcar has a different kind of experience, and the experience of the one who flies in an aeroplane is different again. Perhaps the one who was walking was not able to reach his goal as quickly as the one in the motorcar or the one in the aeroplane, but the observations that he was able to make, the sights that he saw, and all the experiences that he had there, were far beyond those of the other two. And in just the same way our mind works. There is one man whose mind works at the rate of an aeroplane; there is another man whose mind works like an automobile; and there is a third whose mind works at the speed of a man walking. The one whose mind is working at that speed will not perhaps react as quickly as the others, but what he thinks he will think thoroughly; what he sees he will see thoroughly. It is he who will have insight into things, it is he who will understand the hidden law behind things, because the activity of his mind is normal. Thinking does not always depend upon quickness of the mind; sometimes it is the quality of the mind which is more important.
An intelligent person thinks swiftly too, but that is another thing. There can be a great difference between two stones, for instance between a diamond and a pebble. They are both stones, but one is precious and the other dull. In the same way there are two different qualities of mind: one man thinks quickly and intelligently, the other thinks quickly but is very often mistaken. He is mistaken because he thinks quickly, while in the other case it is the quality of mind which even in quick thinking makes that person think rightly. Nevertheless the rhythm of thinking has a great deal to do with one's life. When the three who have traveled the same way on foot, in the car and by aeroplane, meet together and speak of their experiences, we shall find a great difference in what they tell; and this explains why people who have gone through the same life, who have lived under the same sun, who have been born on the same earth, are yet so different in their mentality. The reason is that their minds have traveled at different speeds. Their experiences are quite different though they have traveled the same way.
A seer is the one who has not only looked, but who has seen. And how has he seen? By controlling the impulse of walking too quickly, by resisting the temptation of going to the right or to the left, by going steadily towards the object that he wants to reach. All these things help to make one a seer.
The seer sees more than for instance the astrologer; much more. There is no comparison. But the seer does not speak about what he sees; if he did he would become just like the astrologer. To the seer every person's soul is just like an open letter; but if he were to divulge its secrets his sight would become dimmer every day because it is a trust given to him by God. Spiritual trust is given to those who can keep that trust and who are able to keep a secret.
There are many wrong interpretations of the word seer.
Sometimes people think that a seer is a clairvoyant or a
spiritist, but that is a different kind of person and not
a seer. The seer
Then there is long sight and short sight and medium sight. There are some who can see far beyond, or long before events, and there is the person who only sees what is immediately before him and what is next to him; he sees nothing of what is behind him. His influence reaches only as far as the thing that is just beside him, and it is that which influences him. But there is another person who reasons about what he sees; his can be called medium sight. He reasons about it as far as his reason allows. He cannot see beyond his reasoning; he goes so far and no further. Naturally if these three persons meet and speak together, each has his own language. It is not surprising if one does not understand the point of view of the other, because each one has his own vision according to which he looks at things. No one can give his own sight to another person in order to make him see differently.
If the spiritual people of all ages taught faith, it was not because they wished that no one should think for himself but should accept everything in faith which was taught him. If they had had that intention they would not have been spiritual people. Nevertheless, however clever a person may be, however devoted and enthusiastic, if he is without faith the spiritual souls cannot impart their knowledge to him, for there is no such thing as spiritual knowledge in the sense of learning. If there is anything spiritual that can be imparted to the pupil, it is the point of view, the outlook on life. If a person already has that outlook on life, he does not need spiritual guidance; but if he has not, then words of explanation will not explain anything to him, for it is a point of view and it cannot be explained in words.
However much a person may try to describe the light that he saw when he was on top of a mountain to the man who has never climbed that mountain, that man may refuse to believe all that the other says; but perhaps, if he trusts him, he will begin to listen to his guidance. He may not see it, but he will listen, and he will benefit by the experience of the one who has seen the light from the top of the mountain. But the one who goes to the top of the mountain will have the same experience himself.
There is still another side to this question, and that is from which height one looks at life. There is one view when a person looks at life standing on the ground; it is different when he is climbing the mountain, and it is a different outlook again when he has reached the top. And what are these degrees? They are degrees of consciousness. When a person is looking at life and says, 'I and all else', that is one point of view; when a person sees all else and forgets 'I', that is another point of view; and when a person sees all and identifies it with 'I', that is another point of view again. And the difference these points of view make in a person's outlook is so vast that words can never explain it.
Reaching the top of the mountain means entering what is called Nirvana, cosmic consciousness; the idea of communicating with God is symbolized by a person who has climbed a part of the mountain, and who therefore already has a less clearly defined idea of I and you, and of he, she, and it than the one who is standing on the ground.
Spiritual progress is expansion of the soul. It is not always desirable to live on the top of the mountain, because the ground also is made for man. What is desirable is to have one's feet on the ground and one's head as high as the top of the mountain. A person who can observe life from all sides, from all angles, will have a different experience from each angle; and every side he looks at will give him new knowledge, a different knowledge from that which he had before.
Finally there is the question of seeing and not seeing. This is understood by the mystics as being able to see at will, and also being able to overlook. It is not easy for a person to overlook, it is something one must learn. There is much that man is able to see and that he must see; and there is much that he should not see, that it is better he does not see. If we cannot see, that is a disadvantage; but there is no disadvantage in not seeing something that we should not see. There are so many things that can be seen that we may just as well avoid seeing those we should not.
The one who is held by what he sees lacks mastery. Although he does not want to see it, he cannot help seeing it; but the one who has his sight under control, sees what he wants to see, and what he does not want to see he does not see. That is mastery. And as it is true of the eyes, that we see what is before us and we do not see what is behind us, so it is true of the mind: what is before it, it sees and what is behind it, it does not see. Naturally, therefore, if this objective world is before a person's eyes, the other world is hidden from his sight, because he sees what is before him and not what is behind him. And as it is true that what is behind us we can only see by turning our head, so also it is true that what the mind does not see can only be seen when the mind is turned the other way. What is learned in esotericism and in mysticism is the turning of the mind from the outer vision to the inner vision.
One might ask, what profit do we derive from this? If it is profitable to rest at night after a whole day's work, so it is profitable to turn one's mind from this world of variety in order to rest it and to give it another experience which belongs to it, which is its own and which it needs. It is this experience which is attained by the meditative process. A person who is able to think but not able to forget, a person who is able to speak but not able to keep silent, a person who is able to move but not able to keep still, a person who is able to cry but not able to laugh – that person does not know mastery. It is like having one hand, it is like standing on one foot. To have complete experience of life one must be able to act and to be still, one must be able to talk and to keep silent.
There are many precious things in nature and art, things that are beyond value, yet there is nothing in this world that is more precious than sight; and the most precious of all is insight, to be able to see, to be able to understand, to be able to learn, to be able to know. That is the greatest gift that God can give, and all other things in life are small compared with it. If there is anything that one can do to enrich one's knowledge, to raise one's soul to higher spheres, to allow one's consciousness to expand to perfection, it is to do everything one possibly can to open one's sight, which is the sign of God in man. It is the opening of the sight which is called the soul's unfoldment.