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Volume XI - Philosophy, Psychology and Mysticism

Part III: Mysticism

Chapter VII

Anyone who has some knowledge of mysticism and of the lives of the mystics knows that what always attracts the mystic most is nature. Nature is his bread and wine. Nature is his soul's nourishment. Nature inspires him, uplifts him and gives him the solitude for which his soul continually longs. Every soul born with a mystical tendency is constantly drawn towards nature; in nature that soul finds its life's demand, as it is said in the Vadan, 'Art is dear to my heart, but nature is near to my soul'.

Upon those who are without any tendency towards mysticism nature has a calming effect; to them it means a peaceful atmosphere, but to the mystic nature is everything. No wonder that the mystics, sages and prophets of all ages sought refuge in nature from all the disturbing influences of daily life. They considered the caves of the mountains to be better than palaces. They enjoyed the shelter under a tree more than beautiful houses. They liked looking at the running water better than watching the passing crowds. They preferred the seashores to the great cities. They enjoyed watching the rising and the falling of the waves more than all the show that the world can produce. They loved to look at the moon, at the planets, at the stars in the sky more than at all the beautiful things made by man.

To a mystic the word nature has a wider meaning; according to the mystical point of view nature has four different aspects. The forest, the desert, hills and dales, mountains and rivers, sunrise and sunset, the moonlit night and the shining stars are one aspect of nature. Before a mystic they stand like letters, characters, figures made by the Creator to read if one is able to read them. The sura of the Quran which contains the first revelation of the Prophet includes the verse, 'Read in the name of your Lord... who taught with the pen'. The mystic, therefore, recognizes this manifestation as a written book. He tries to read these characters and enjoys what they reveal to him. To the mystic it is not only the waxing and the waning of the moon, it has some other significance for him. It is not only the rising and the setting of the sun, it tells him something else. It is not only the positions of the stars, but their action and their influence relate something to the heart of the mystic. The mountains standing so silently, the patient trees of long tradition, the barren desert, the thick forest, not only have a calming effect upon the mystic, but they express something to him. The fluttering of the leaves comes to his ears as a whisper, the murmur of the wind falls on his ears as music, and the sound of little streams of water running in the forest, making their way through rocks and pebbles is a symphony to the ears of the mystic. No music can be greater and higher and better than this. The crashing of the thunder, the soughing of the wind, the blowing of the morning breeze, all these convey to a mystic a certain meaning which is hidden behind them. And for a mystic they make a picture of life, not a dead picture but a living picture, which at every moment continually reveals a new secret, a new mystery to his heart.

And then we come to the next aspect of nature, an aspect which manifests through the lower creation. The silent little creatures crawling on the earth, the birds singing in the trees, the lion with its wrath, the elephant with its grandeur, the horse with its grace, and the deer with its beauty, all these tell him something. He begins to see the meaning of the wrath of the lion and of the modesty of the deer. He listens to the words that come to his ears through the singing of the birds, for to him it is not a wordless song. The ancient mystics in their symbology used the head of the tiger, the form of the lion, the image of the eagle, and also pictures of the snake and the cow. They pictured them as a character which they had read through observing this aspect of nature.

There is an aspect of nature which is still more interesting, and to see it the mystic need not go away, for he sees it in the midst of the world. What is it? It is to read human nature and to watch its continual change, its progress, its degradation, its improvement. It is so interesting that in spite of all the difficulties that the world presents, one feels life worth living when one begins to notice how those who were going forward begin to go backward, and how those who were going backward begin to go forward; when one observes how a person, without sinking in the water, is drowned in life, and how a person who was drowning begins to swim and is save; when one sees how from the top a person comes down to the bottom in a moment, and how a person who was creeping on the ground has at last arrived at the top; when one sees how friends turn into bitter enemies, and how bitter enemies one day become friends. To one who observes human nature keenly it gives such an interest in life that he becomes sufficiently strong to bear all, to endure all, to stand all things patiently. One may observe this moving picture all through life, and it is never enough. One never tires of it.

And the fourth aspect of nature is seeing the divine nature, realizing the meaning of the saying that man proposes and God disposes. When one is able to see the works of God in life, another world is opened before one; then a man does not look at the world as everybody else does, for he begins to see not only the machine going on but the engineer standing by its side, making the machine work. This offers a still greater interest, the greatest interest in life. If one were to be flayed or crucified one would not mind, for one rises above all pain and suffering, and one feels it worthwhile to be living and looking at this phenomenon that gives one in one's lifetime the proof of the existence of God.

It is these four aspects of life that are called nature by the mystics; to a Sufi they are his holy scripture. All the other sacred books of the world, however highly esteemed by the followers of the different religions, are interpretations of this book, given by those who were granted clear vision and who tried their best to give all they had learned from it to humanity in our human language, which is a language of limitations.

Nature does not teach the glory of God; it need not teach this as nature itself is the glory of God. People wish to study astrology and other subjects in order to understand better, but if we study astrology then we are sure to arrive at an interpretation which is given by a man, whereas what we should read from nature is what nature gives us and not what any book teaches us. There comes a time with the maturity of the soul when every thing and every being begins to reveal its nature to us. We do not need to read their lives. We do not need to read their theories. We know then that this wide nature in its four aspects is ever-revealing and that one can always communicate with it, but that in spite of this it is not the privilege of every soul to read it. Many souls remain blind with open eyes. They are in heaven, but not allowed to look at heaven; they are in paradise, but not allowed to enjoy the beauties of paradise. It is just like a person sleeping on a pile of gems and jewels. From the moment man's eyes open and he begins to read the book of nature he begins to live; and he continues to live forever.

checked 18-Oct-2005