Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
The Mystical Heart
When one asks, 'What is the heart? Where is the heart?', the answer usually is that the heart is in the breast. This is true. There is a nerve center in the breast of man which is so sensitive to our feelings that it is always regarded as the heart. When a person feels a great joy, it is in that center that he feels something lighting up; and through the lighting up of that center, his whole being seems to be light. He feels as if he were flying. If depression or despair has come into his life, this has an effect upon that center. A man feels his throat choked and his breath laden, as with a heavy load.
However, the heart is not only that. To understand this, one should picture a mirror standing before the heart, focused upon the heart, so that everything and every feeling is reflected in this mirror, which is in the physical being of man. Just as man is ignorant of his soul, so he does not know where his heart is, nor where the center is where his feelings are reflected. It is a fact known to scientists that when a child is formed, it begins from the heart. But a mystic's conception is that the heart, which is the beginning of form, is also the beginning of the spirit that makes man an individual. The depth of that spirit is, in reality, what we call the heart. Through this, we understand that there is such a thing as a heart, which is the deepest depth of man's being.
In these days, people attribute less importance to sentiment, and rely more upon the intellect. The reason for this is that when they meet two kinds of people, the intellectual and the sentimental, they find greater balance in an intellectual man than in one with much sentiment. This is no doubt true; but the very reason for the lack of balance is that there is a greater power than the intellect, and this power is sentiment. The earth is fruitful, but not as powerful as the water. The intellect is creative, yet not as powerful as the heart and the sentiment. In reality, the intellectual man will also prove unbalanced in the end if he has no sentimental side to his being.
Are there not many people of whom one can say, 'I like him, love him, admire him, but he closes his heart?' The one who closes his heart neither loves others completely, nor allows others to love him fully. Besides, a man who is only intellectual, in time, becomes skeptical, doubting, unbelieving, and destructive, since there is no power of the heart to balance it. The Sufi considers the devotion of the heart to be the best thing to cultivate for spiritual realization. Many people may not agree; but it is a fact that the one who closes his heart to his fellow man closes his heart to God. Jesus Christ did not say, 'God is the intellect.' He said, 'God is love', and therefore, if the peace of God can be found anywhere, it is not in any church on earth, nor in Heaven above, but in the heart of man. The place where one is most certain to find God is in the loving heart of a kind man.
Many people believe that with the help of reason, man will act according to a certain standard of morals. However, it is not reason that makes people good; and even if they seem good or righteous, they are only made so artificially. The prisoners in jail can all be righteous; but if natural goodness and righteousness can be found anywhere, it is in the spring of the heart from which life arises, and every drop of this spring is a living virtue. This proves that goodness is not man-made; it is man's very being. If he lacks goodness, it is not through lack of training, although training is often most desirable, but because he has not yet found his true self. Goodness is natural, for a normal person is necessarily good. No one needs teaching in order to live a good or righteous life. If love is the torch on his path, it shows him what fairness means, and the honor of his word, charity of heart, and righteousness. Do we not sometimes see a young man who, with all his boisterous tendencies, suddenly finds a girl whom he begins to love and who, when he really loves her, begins to show a change in his life? He becomes gentle, for he must train himself for her sake. He does without things he was never before willing to give up. In the same way, where there is love, forgiveness is not very difficult. A child comes to its mother, even after having offended a thousand times, and asks her forgiveness. There is no one else to go to, and it does not take a moment for the mother's heart to forgive. Forgiveness was waiting there to manifest itself. One cannot help being kind when there is feeling. Someone whose feeling goes out to another person sees when that person needs his feeling and he strikes a note of sympathy in everyone he meets, finding the point of contact in every soul because he has love.
There are people who say, 'But is it not unwise to give oneself to everyone in unrestrained tenderness, as people in general are not trustworthy?' But if a person is good and kind, this goodness ought to become manifest to everyone, and the doors of the heart should be closed to no one.
Jesus Christ not only told us to love our friends, but also, he went as far as to say we should love our enemies; and the Sufi treads the same path. He considers his charity of heart towards his fellow man to be love for God; and in showing love to everyone, he feels he is giving his love to God. Here the Sufi and the yogi differ. The yogi is not unkind, but he says, 'I love you all, but I had better keep away from you, for your souls are always groping in darkness, and my soul is in the light. Your friendship will harm my soul, so I had better keep away and love you from afar.' The Sufi says, 'It is a trial, but it should be tried. I shall take up my everyday duties as they come along.' Although he knows how unimportant the things of the world are, and does not overvalue these things, he attends to his responsibilities towards those who love him, like him, depend upon him, follow him. He tries to find the best way of coming to terms with all those who dislike and despise him. He lives in the world, yet he is not of the world. In this way, the Sufi considers that the main principle in the fulfillment of the purpose of his life is to love man.
Those who love their enemies and yet lack patience are like a burning lantern with little oil. It cannot keep alight; and in the end, the flame fades away. The oil in the path of love is patience; and besides this, it is unselfishness and self-sacrifice from beginning to end.
Some say, 'I have loved dearly once, but I was disappointed.' It is as if a man were to say, 'I dug in the earth, but when the mud came, I was disappointed.' It is true that mud came; but with patience, he will reach the water one day. Only patience can endure. Only endurance produces greatness.
Imitation gold can be as beautiful as real gold, the imitation diamond as bright as a real diamond. The difference is that the one fails in the test of endurance, and the other stands up to it. Yet man should not be compared with objects. Man has something divine in him, and he can prove this by his endurance on the path of love.
Whom then should one love, and how should one love? Whatever a person loves, whether duty, human beings, art, friends, an ideal, or his fellow creatures, he has assuredly opened the door through which he must pass in order to reach that love which is God. The beginning of love is an excuse. It leads to that ideal of love which is God, alone. Some say that they can love God, but not human beings. But this is like saying to God, 'I love Thee, but not Thine image.' Can one hate the human creatures in which God's image is to be found and yet claim to love God? If one is not tolerant, not willing to sacrifice, can one then claim the love of the Lord?
The first lesson is the widening of the heart and the awakening of the inner feeling of the heart. The sign of saintliness is not in the power of words, not in the high position, either spiritual or intellectual, not in magnetism; the saintly spirit only expresses itself in the love of all creatures; it is the continuous springing of love from that divine fountain in the heart of man. When once that fountain is turned on, it purifies the heart, it makes the heart transparent to reveal both the outer and the inner world. The heart becomes the vehicle for the soul to see all that is within and without; and then a man not only communicates with another person, but also with God.