Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE MYSTICAL MEANING OF THE RESURRECTION
WHAT IS the exact meaning of the resurrection which is spoken of in the Bible? The resurrection is that moment after death when the soul becomes conscious of all its experiences. As the soul is connected with everything in the universe, the individual resurrection is a universal resurrection.
After Christ had risen from the dead he said, 'He that believeth shall be saved'. The dead are those who have not realized their immortality; he rises who realizes his immortality; and Christ's saying means that he who has the knowledge of God, of immortality, shall never die, and that those who have belief in God – which is the same as knowledge of God – are never dead.
What death is can only be understood by man; birds and beasts feel the inactivity resulting from death, the absence of life, but they do not realize what death really is. I have seen a bird, when its mate was shot and fell dead, settle beside it, feel it with its beak, and when it felt that it was still and lifeless, drop its head and give up its life before the hunter could approach. I have also seen a dog die instantly when it saw that its companion dog with which it had spent its life was dead. But still, animals feel only the inactivity, the absence of the friend. They do not fully realize the true nature of death.
In the East Sufis often build their houses or cottages near cemeteries and also in the jungles, so that by seeing the dead they may remember that now is the time to conquer death, in order to realize their immortality after death. And time and again man, in the form of a holy being, awakens humanity to the knowledge of its immortality.
If the resurrection merely meant that Christ after his death rose again, it would be a story which could either be believed or disbelieved. If it were only believed as such, how long would that belief last? Its lesson is much greater than that; it means the resurrection from this mortal life to immortality. Those who have risen to that immortal one Being, where there is no distinction between husband and wife, brother and sister, father, mother, and child, they are the sons of the resurrection.
The story tells that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb where Christ had been laid, they found that the stone that was before the tomb had been rolled away; and, looking in they saw his wrappings lying about and the head-cloth in a place by itself; but the body of Christ was not there. The stone is the same stone that is spoken of in the Hindu myths. The Lord Krishna is called Girwara: he who holds the stone, who lifts it up. Under this stone every individual soul in the world is oppressed; it is the stone of the external self. When this is lifted up, then man rises to immortality. And above what does he rise? He rises above the body and above the mind; the wrappings and the head-cloth lying separately symbolize the body and the mind.
Great poets, great musicians, great writers, often rise above the body. They do not know where they are sitting or standing, they are lost in their imagination, unconscious of their physical existence; but they do not rise above the mind. When the consciousness can rise above the mind, above the thoughts, then it is free, then it is active in its own element, and then the higher consciousness can give of itself to the mind.
The rising to that consciousness in which there is no distinction is the highest degree of resurrection; but there are other degrees, just as in a lift one cannot arrive at the seventh floor without passing the second, third, fourth, and all the other floors.
There is that resurrection in which the exact counterpart of the physical body walks, sits down, and can do all that the physical body can do. This is called by Sufis Alam-i Mithal. There are mystics who have mastered this so completely that they are quite independent of their physical body. There is no death when this is mastered.
If a poet is writing his poetry, his wife, his servant, a hundred people may pass before his eyes, but he will not see them; he will not know that anyone has been near. If a little love of poetry can do this, how much more will the love of the inner life, the absorption in the inner life, draw the consciousness within!
It is told in the gospel that after his resurrection Christ was seen several times by his disciples. It is the experience of every person who has practiced concentration and who has meditated, that he sees that which he has held in his consciousness, not only inwardly but outwardly before him. This is the first experience that every mystic has. The disciples were lost, absorbed in the thought of Christ; how should they not see him?
Christ said, 'Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.' The word spirit is used in many different senses. It is used for a ghost or for the soul, but really it means the essence, which is the opposite pole to substance; in manifestation spirit is the opposite of matter in every way.
All that the eye has seen resurrects in the eye. If someone mentions a certain person to us, even though we had forgotten that person altogether he rises up in our eye, and we see him in a certain house, in a certain place where we have seen him before. It is not in this physical eye, but in that eye which is beyond. The materialists may say it is all in the brain, but how could the brain contain so many thousands and millions of things and beings? No doubt without training a person does not see the spirit, but it can be said that in a dream one sees oneself, one experiences oneself in different surroundings in the company of different people. And when someone says, 'That is a dream', I would answer, 'When do you call it a dream? You call it a dream when you are awake and when you see the contrast with your surroundings'; then you say, 'It was a dream; if not it would have remained with me, but everything was different there'; but if while you are dreaming someone came to you and said, 'It is a dream', you would never believe it.
The resurrection is the rising to that real life, that true friend upon whom alone, from among all other things and beings, we can lean, who alone is always unchanged, who has always been with us and always will be.