Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
MANIFESTATION, GRAVITATION, ASSIMILATION, AND PERFECTION
THE ABSOLUTE in both its manifested and unmanifested condition is intelligence. And it is the manifestation of this intelligence which may be called light, life, and love. It is the dense form of intelligence which is light. And as the sun is not only the source of the moon, the planets, and the stars, but also of fire, of flame, of glow, and of every aspect of light, so the supreme Spirit is the source of all aspects of manifestation. The sun is the centralization of the all-pervading radiance.
The light which was spread all around began to function in one spot; there it became more radiant, more glowing, more powerful than the radiance that was left in space. This light again functioned in the moon, and its different currents functioned in different planets and stars. This is an accurate picture of the origin of the creation. The all-pervading light of intelligence first centralized itself, thus making itself the spirit of the whole universe; and from there it began to manifest. So the omniscient spirit, by centralizing in one spot, has become the source of both the seen and the unseen manifestation. This is why in all ages the wise have worshipped the sun as the symbol of God, although the sun is only the outward symbol of God.
A close study of the formation of the sun and of its influence on everything in life will help us to understand the divine Spirit. Heat, gas-light, electric light, the coal fire, the wood fire, the candle, the flame of the oil-lamp, all these different manifestations of light have their source in the sun; it is the sun which is showing itself in all these different forms, although we generally consider the sun to be separate from all other aspects of light. In the same way the supreme Spirit is manifested in all forms, in all things and beings, in the seen and unseen worlds; and yet it stands remote, as the sun stands remote from all other forms of light. The Quran says, 'God is the light of heaven and of earth'; and in reality all forms, however dense they may be, are to some degree the radiance of that spirit which is all light. All the different colors are different degrees of that same light.
The supreme Spirit, the source of all things, has two aspects, audible and visible. In its audible aspect the Spirit is the Word, as the Bible calls sound; the Hindus call it Nada. In its physical aspect the supreme Spirit is the Light; in its finer aspect the light of intelligence, in its dense aspect the radiance of all objects. Manifestation is the phenomenon of the light playing in three directions; this is the real meaning of the Trinity. One direction is the light that sees, the other is the light that is seen, and the third is the light that shows all things. In other words, the eyes which see, the object that is seen, and the light that enables the eyes to see the object, are all one and the same light playing in three different ways. There is a sura of the Quran where it says, 'I have made your light, and by your light I create the universe.' In other words, the all-pervading Spirit says to the centralized aspect of itself, 'I made you first, and out of you I have made the whole universe'. This is the key to the whole of creation.
The process of manifestation is like the projecting of rays from the sun. Why does the sun shoot out its rays? Because it is its nature. And the same answer applies to the question of why the supreme Spirit manifests. Because it is its nature. No sooner has the all-pervading light become centralized in one spot and formed the sun, than the rays begin to shoot out. In the same way, the omniscient light, as soon as it centralized itself in one spot, began to shoot out its rays; and just as there are many rays of the sun, so there are many rays of the spirit of intelligence, in other words of God, the real Self. And each of these rays is a soul. Thus the ray is the manifestation of the sun, and man is the manifestation of God. The rays spread forth and reach far, and yet they remain connected with the sun.
As these rays go forward the first plane they strike is the angelic plane. The second plane they strike is the plane of the jinns; and the third is the physical plane. But have these rays left the supreme spirit in order to come to the angelic plane; have they left the angelic plane in order to come to the plane of the jinns; have they left the jinn plane in order to come to the physical plane? No, they have passed through all three, and while passing through they have received all that can be received from each place, learned all that is to be learned, gathered all that is to be gathered; but they still exist on those planes although they do not know it. They are only conscious of that plane where their ray has opened its eyes; in other words, we are sitting in this room, but we only see what is before our eyes and not what is behind our back. Thus every soul has at the back of it the angelic plane and the jinn plane, but before its eyes there is only this physical plane. Therefore it is only conscious of the physical plane and is unconscious of the planes from which it has turned its eyes, though even after manifesting on earth it is still connected with the higher spheres. It lives in all spheres, but mostly knows only one sphere, unaware of the others on which it has turned its back. Thus the soul, deprived of the heavenly bliss, becomes conscious of the troubles and limitations of life on earth. It was not that Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden; he only turned his back on it, and that made him an exile from heaven.
The souls which have opened their eyes fully to the angelic plane and become interested in it have remained there; and it is the inhabitants of that plane that may be called angels. The souls which did not open their eyes fully on that plane only passed through it, and if they became interested in the jinn plane they remained there. Souls which went still further towards manifestation, and reached on the physical plane the ultimate call of their destiny, have opened their eyes there and have become human beings, which is the most wide awake state of all.
One speaks of these planes as if they were places. In point of fact they are conditions, but what we call a place is also a condition. It is only because it is rigid in its physical appearance that we think of it as a place, but in reality it is a condition. That is why those who have understood this have called it an illusion.
A person who has left America for Europe, and who has gone from Europe to the Orient, has brought something of America with him to Europe, and has taken something of Europe to the Orient. And so every soul that has come to the earth has brought with it something of the angelic plane and something of the plane of the jinn; and it shows in its life on the physical plane that which it has brought from these two planes of existence. Innocence, love of beauty, deep sympathy, love of song, a tendency towards solitude, love of harmony, all these belong to the angelic plane. Inventive genius, intellectuality, reasoning, law, justice, love of poetry and science, all these belong to the plane of the jinns. That is why one says of those who show any of these qualities, 'Here is an angelic person', or 'Here is a genius'.
The soul has put on an inner garb and an outer garb; and it is these garbs that shape the soul, completely as a human being belonging to the physical plane. One garb is hidden beneath another. One might think that the garb of the jinn plane would be smaller in size than the physical one, and the garb of the angelic plane smaller still as it is covered by that of the jinn plane; but this is not necessarily so. To our physical eyes everything must have a certain rate of vibration to be visible; and it is the physical vibrations of matter that make it visible to our eyes. The vibrations of the garb of the jinn plane are so subtle that our physical eyes cannot see it, and it is as much an inner garb as an outer garb. Its size need not to be as small as that of the physical body; in fact it is incomparably larger.
It is the same with the garb that the soul has adopted from the angelic plane, which is not necessarily so small that it can be covered by the two garbs just described, but on the contrary is even larger and finer. Only, the eyes of this plane cannot see it; it vibrates more quickly, and we see things according to their vibration rate. If they are invisible it is not because they are invisible by nature, but because they are invisible to our sight. Since we are dependent upon our physical eyes in order to see, that which the physical eyes cannot see, we naturally say is unseen. It is only unseen because we cannot see it as a form, so it is not an exaggeration to say that man is at the same time a jinn and an angel, for man passes through these two planes. He does not know it, but he shows the qualities of each of these planes. The love quality in man, the sense of beauty, joy, aspiration, all these tendencies, besides the innocence of human nature, come from the angelic plane. The purity in the face of an infant gives us proof of its having just arrived from that plane. The infant's smile, its friendliness, and its readiness to appreciate everything beautiful, its love of life, all these things are signs of the angelic spheres.
As a soul remains longer on earth, it loses the angelic qualities and adopts new qualities. Thus, while an infant shows the angelic quality, a child shows the quality of the jinn by wanting to know all about names and forms, and by asking its mother and other people with great curiosity about them. And when a man has passed that stage he seems to become full of miseries, worries, and helplessness.
In some people we see the angelic quality predominating; they are good and kind and innocent, forgiving, pure-hearted, righteous, virtuous, lovers of beauty, always inclined to high aspirations. If we studied human nature more keenly we would find a great many examples of the angelic nature. And again there are poets, composers, and intellectual people, writers and inventors who show the quality of the jinn.
Why do souls come to the earth? Why has this creation taken place? What is the purpose of this manifestation? These questions may be answered in one word: satisfaction – for the satisfaction of God. Why is God not satisfied without it? Because God is the only Being, and the desire of being is to become conscious of being. This consciousness experiences life through various channels, names, and forms, and in man this consciousness of being reaches its culmination. To put it simply, it is through man that God experiences life in its highest perfection. If anyone asks what man's duty is, if that is the purpose, the answer is: his most sacred duty is to attain to that perfect consciousness which is his Dharma, his true religion. In order to perform his duty he may have to struggle with himself, he may have to go through suffering and pain, he may have to pass many tests and trials. But by making many sacrifices, and practicing renunciation, he will attain to that consciousness which is God-consciousness, in which resides all perfection.
As we have seen, if we studied human nature more keenly we would find a great many examples of people with an angelic nature, and also of those who show jinn qualities; however, there are more people who show human qualities. These can again be divided into three classes: there is the human quality, there is the animal quality, and there is the devilish quality, depending on the rate of vibrations and the rhythm. Intense rhythm produces the devilish quality; moderate rhythm shows the animal quality; an even rhythm shows the human quality. The form of this rhythm may be described thus: that the human quality is mobile, the animal quality is uneven, and the devilish quality is zigzag.
The gravitation known to science is the material gravitation, which means that all that belongs to the dense earth is attracted to the dense earth. But in exactly the same way all that belongs to the spirit is attracted to the spirit. Therefore man is pulled from both sides, and he is pulled more than any other creature, for he is closer to the spirit. On one side the earth demands his body, on the other side the spirit asks for his soul. If man gives in to the attraction of the earth, then the body drags the soul towards the earth. If man gives himself over to the attraction of the spirit, then the spirit drags the body to the spirit. In this way man is subject to the law of gravity from both sides, from the earth and from heaven.
The law of gravity is similar to the law which governs the relation between the sun and the ray. The ray never leaves the sun; its tendency is to reach out and then to withdraw and to return towards the sun, in other words to merge into the sun. The inclination of the soul is the same. However much the body depends upon the dense earth, and however much the mind revels in the intellectual spheres, the soul's continual inclination is to withdraw itself to its origin. But since the physical manifestation speaks loudest, and the mind makes its own sound, the gentle cry of the soul remains unheard.
We have seen above that as the soul passed through these different planes it borrowed from each of them the things that belong to that plane: qualities, tendencies, ideas, thoughts, feelings, impressions, flesh, skin, bone, and blood. But what the soul has borrowed it must give back when it has done its work; it was borrowed for a certain time and for a certain purpose. When the purpose is fulfilled and when the time has come, then every plane asks for that which the soul has borrowed from it. And one cannot help but give it back. It is this process which is called assimilation. Since man is born greedy and selfish he has taken all that was given to him willingly, even enthusiastically; but he gives it back grudgingly, calling it death.
Assimilation, therefore, is to give back to the earth the physical matter which one has used on this physical plane. It becomes assimilated by the earth, and the soul becomes free of that burden which it once carried, and begins to experience a greater liberty and a greater ease. For death is only releasing the soul from limitation and from a great captivity.
Death is nothing but the taking off of one garb and giving it back to that plane from which it was borrowed. For one cannot take the garb of the lower plane to the higher plane. The soul is only released when it is willing or compelled to give its garb to the plane it has borrowed it from; it is this which releases the soul to continue on its journey. And as it proceeds after its stay there, it must again give back its garb and be purified from it in order to go further.
If people knew this they would look at life from a different point of view. They would understand the meaning of the moral that we cannot retain anything that does not really belong to us. And we come to realize after the study of this philosophy that even our body does not belong to us. It is a borrowed property and it must be returned one day. Therefore the wise disown it before they are obliged to give it up. All the spiritual exercises given by teachers are practiced for this purpose: that we may begin to disown our body from today, that we may not have the pain of having lost something we thought to be most precious.
This knowledge also throws light upon the question of death. Death is not really death; it is only a passing phase, it is only a change, like changing our clothes. Perhaps we might wonder whether we become less by dying; but it is not so. We become more by dying, not less. For once the physical garb has been discarded the soul enjoys a greater freedom, a greater liberation, because the limitation of the physical body is greater. The physical body weighs heavily on the soul, and the day when this burden is removed, the soul feels lighter; its faculties, tendencies, inspiration, powers, all manifest more freely. Therefore death is no loss.
What is it that brings about death? Either the body, owing to weakness, is not capable of serving the soul properly; or the soul has finished its mission on that plane and does not want the body any more. The body clings to the soul and the soul holds the body; that is the position. When the body is too feeble, it naturally loses its grip on the soul, and generally it loses it more and more till it can no longer hold the soul. Or the soul holds the body as long as it has to accomplish something; and when the soul sees no further purpose then it loses its hold upon the body, and so gradually the body drops out of the hands of the soul.
It is by this process that death is brought about, whereas birth is the contrary process. Human bodies are the clay that is needed to make a body for the soul. The soul has to knock at the door of the physical plane and the body is given to it. This idea, this philosophy, is symbolized by Cupid.
Life on the plane of the jinn is longer than life on the physical plane. It is this life which may be called the life in the hereafter. But here too there comes a time when all that was borrowed from the jinn plane has to be given back to that plane, for it did not belong to the soul either. Thus no one can take anything with him beyond the substance of another plane; each plane has its own substance, and that substance must be returned to it. That is the only way the soul can be freed from that plane in order to rise above it. When the soul soars higher it must give up even the angelic qualities. They must be assimilated in the angelic plane before the soul can dissolve into the great Ocean, the supreme Spirit. That dissolving is called the merging into the real self.
There is one most important thing that can be learned from this process: every soul which is coming from the source towards manifestation gives what it brings from the source to the returning souls it meets, and these give back all they have collected. It is this exchange which is the cause of the various conditions of life into which man is born on coming to earth. One is intelligent, another is simple, one is born in a rich family, another in poor surroundings, one is healthy, the other weak, one will have a great purpose, the other does not know what he should do. It is all determined. By what? By the fact that a soul coming from the source has collected all kinds of things on its way from souls returning to the source.
There is a give and take on the planes through which the soul has to pass, and this give and take is between those souls which are going from the source towards manifestation and the souls which are returning from manifestation to the source. As a traveler coming from Asia to America and a traveler going from America to Asia may meet in Europe and may exchange money or thoughts, taking upon themselves one another's debts, knowledge, happiness, or misery, in the same way we experience our life on earth. One soul takes a route, sometimes without knowing it, which leads to riches, to success; and another soul takes a route which leads him to failure, to committing errors. It all depends on what route one has taken from the beginning. Hafiz explains this idea poetically, saying that each person has his own wine, and his love is according to the wine he possesses. Whether it be the wine of happiness, the wine of joy, or of sorrow, the wine of misery, of courage, of fear, of trust, of distrust, of faith, or of disbelief, it is in the intoxication of this wine that he acts, showing the effect of the wine to the world.
In this exchange between souls going from the source to manifestation and coming back from manifestation to the source, one takes the wine of selfishness, another that of unselfishness. A Persian poet, Bedil, says, 'Before dawn the wine was poured out, the wine which was taken from the eyes of the Beloved.' By dawn the poet means birth, the time when the soul begins its journey from the angelic plane, and the eyes of the Beloved mean this most deceiving world. The first cup that the soul drinks determines its life afterwards.
Many believe that man, when he attains to a higher evolution, becomes richer in knowledge. Certainly, higher evolution is itself a knowledge; but the knowledge man gains from earthly sources is not a coin which is current on other planes. Man makes much of the coin of this plane, small and limited though the world is. It always amuses me when a person comes and says, 'I have read so many books on occult science; I think I am quite ready to be initiated'. Imagine how reading about occult science should entitle one to spirituality! The language of that country is different, and intellectual knowledge is not current there; the learning there consists of unlearning what we have learned here. The question of spiritual attainment is quite different, and it must be dealt with from a totally different point of view.
The condition of the soul may be likened to a mirror. It reflects the object which is before it, but that object is not engraved in the mirror; it only occupies it during the time it veils it. In the same way the soul is veiled by experiences; in other words, our experiences may delude the soul, may cover it or bury it, but they cannot penetrate it. Also, what is called individuality is only a temporary state, and as soon as the soul has awakened it no longer attaches much importance to individuality, which is something made up of garbs borrowed from the different planes. It is like a doll made of rags. When we understand this we give all importance to the soul, the soul which is real, which comes from the real, and which seeks after the real.
The final question is: what can be the purpose of the creation of man? Is anything gained by it? Yes, the realization attained by the experience of life. And it is a divine realization when the experience has led the soul to that height where it is no longer only an individual soul, but where it is conscious of all planes of existence, not only of the source but of all the planes of limitation. And when all the inspiration and power latent in man are within his reach, then that realization is called perfection. It is that perfection of which Jesus Christ spoke, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.'