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.