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Volume XI - Philosophy, Psychology and Mysticism

Part III: Mysticism

Chapter XIV

The process of mystical development is the annihilation of the false ego in the real ego. Sufis call the false ego Nafs, and the real ego Allah or God. It is not that the false ego is our ego and the true ego is the ego of God. It is that the true ego, which is the ego of the Lord, has become a false ego in us. One might ask how something that is true can become false, but false and true are relative terms. In reality all is true and nothing is false. When we call something false it means that it is less true compared with that which is more true. Reality has become confused. The soul, coming from a higher source but having identified itself with a smaller domain, the domain of the body and the mind, has conceived in itself a false idea of itself; and it is this false idea which is called Nafs.

In all people the ego appears in different degrees of intensity. Where it is most intense a person appears to be egotistical. The one in whom it is less pronounced seems to be unselfish. The false ego with its greater intensity becomes not only hard on others, but also on that man himself. The lion is not only cruel to other animals, but it is also very restless itself because of the intensity and strength of its ego. Whereas the lamb is much less hard on others and therefore it is not hard on itself. All manner of trouble and torture, of deceit and treachery, of cruelty and tyranny is born of the false ego.

In its intensity the ego becomes blind, blind to justice. An intense ego is also devoid of life, and therefore of love. The man who loves himself cannot love others. A curious trick of the ego is that the egoist sees in every other person a pronounced ego. 'Why has this person beautiful clothes?' 'Why has he got a higher rank then I?' 'Why is he more distinguished then others?' that is his continual thought. He always sees the other person as having something that he ought not to have, and by this trick the false ego makes him believe that others are egoistic, when on the contrary, it is he himself who is most egoistic, because his ego is hurt by the sight of the other ego.

All methods by which humanity tries to bring about better conditions fail if the psychology of the ego is not studied. Hardly anyone gives it a thought. In working for the construction of a new civilization many efforts are being made regardless of this principle secret of life. In the same reconstruction a great deal of cruelty is taken place, yet all think that they are doing it for the best of humanity. But no false ego can ever do anything for the best of humanity. One person who has risen above the false ego can do much more for the good of humanity than a thousand people blinded by their false ego, pretending to do good. Too many people before having any idea of what to do about it, come forward and say that they want to do something good for humanity; and everybody's way of doing good is different. This may seem strange and yet if we look at life with open eyes we see a thousand examples of it. In the name of reconstruction, of bringing good to the world, of changing life's conditions, what methods people adopt! The reason is because they have begun the work of doing good too soon; one must know what kindness is before trying to be kind.

The Sufis recognize four stages in the development of the ego. The ordinary ego is called Ammara, which means a mechanical reaction of mind, The mind which is conditioned to react against something to the same extent, tooth for tooth and measure for measure.

And when either suffering has developed the ego, or a person has learned to be different in life, then he becomes what the Sufis call Lawwama, which means self disciplined. A person who wants to talk back but thinks that it would perhaps be better if he did not, a person who would like to hit back, but at the same time thinks: 'Better let it go this time', shows that he is not acting mechanically but he asserting his will. Even when he does exactly the same as the other he shows he has will, his action is directed by his will.

When the ego is developed still more it becomes Mutmainna. This is a certain rhythm of mind, where the mind has risen above chaotic motion and the mentality has become rhythmic, and where the reaction of the mind is not only a control, but a deliberate control. This condition of the mind is like a calm sea. All agitation that belongs to the ego has been suppressed. Suffering is the greatest teacher of the ego, and those whose personalities have become a source of consolation for others, a source of healing and upliftment, are those souls whose ego has risen above all agitation.

When the ego is developed still further it becomes Salima, which means peaceful. According to the mystic this is the normal state for a person to be in. Though, if we took that point of view we would not be able to find many normal souls! In this condition we find that the world no longer has a jarring effect on us: we are above irritation, and all manner of agitation is removed. Peace is not something that can be found outside, it is within ourselves, though it is buried under the false ego. The false ego is like the tomb of a living being, not of a corpse. The living being is buried with in this tomb, which is made of the thoughts 'I', and 'myself' and 'what I am' and 'why am I so'. The life thus covered is suffocated, and there is a natural agitation, irritation and unrest; for the peace which is in the depths of our being wishes to manifest view, and the awakening of the soul depends only on the manifestation of this peace.

How many souls are searching for some outer thing that can make them spiritual: dogmas, phenomena, experiments, anything but the exploring of the self! Willing to become confused, ready to be puzzled, happy with the riddles of life, contented to go into the dark caves in order to find something! Man never values plain words, he always wants subtlety. He is pleased with something that he cannot understand and thinks that it must therefore be mysticism. If one realized that spiritual development depends on the awakening of the false ego to its true existence, its own reality, how simple the way to spiritual perfection would become! Is it not true that we make our own difficulties? Where one step is needed we would like to go one hundred steps. It is for this that Hindus ask simple worshippers not to go directly into the temple, but to go around it a hundred times before entering, so that they felt that they had walked sufficiently to be entitled to go in.

Such is the picture of human nature. The path of the mystic is the quickest path because he takes the path of simplicity, that he tells the truth in plain words. And yet is it as really as simple as it appears to be? The beauty is that in the simplicity of the mystics there is the greatest subtlety, sometimes a thing that looks all too gross may in the end prove to be the most fine.

Belief in God helps one to annihilate the false ego; but in order to believe in God one must first believe in the one who believes in God, in whom he places his confidence, in other words in his teacher. If one cannot fully believe in one's teacher, then one can never believe in God. That is the first step in learning to believe, and the second step is believing in the ideal. It is not necessary for the ideal to exist on earth in the form of a human being. This ideal may be in one's heart, in one's mind. Thirdly, one comes to believe in God, and in that belief one loses oneself, so that God covers the believer and all there is. In this way one arrives at the perfect realization of the true ego, which is the pursuit of the mystic.

checked 27-Jan-2011