Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE VISION OF GOD AND MAN
When we speak of men we all understand this to mean human beings, but of God everyone has his own conception. To one person God is an abstract concept, to another he is a personal God, and again according to others there is no God at all. In this age of ever-increasing materialism the God-ideal has become so obscured that its light is no longer evident. People in the past waged wars and battles, they killed and robbed and in many ways showed a primitive nature, but when it came to the ideal, to God, they all surrendered to it, they all believed in it. Today many people question the idea of God. Among the so-called civilized nations there are some who have erased the word God from the textbooks used in their schools. Children educated in these schools have grown up with the idea that there is no God. And even if it occurs to them that there must be something, or they have become convinced that there is a God, they call him 'higher powers', or 'gods', putting into the plural that which is singular, bringing the highest nature humanity can conceive of down to the sphere of variety. Many others who have been educated in science and literature think that it is unintelligent to believe in God or to use the word God. They think that as it is used by so many primitive and simple people, who are not intelligent, they had better forget the name of God. And so a path which has been traced for thousands of years by great masters has been blocked by the pride of man.
Once, after I had given a series of lectures, a man came up to me and said, 'All your lectures appeal to me very much. I think every word is true; I have always thought on those lines. I would be most happy to follow your guidance, but only on one condition: that you not mention the name of God. For a man like you, who can touch the depths of life, a man of high principles and lofty ideals, does not need to use the old name, which every simpleton uses and believes in. We are making a new kind of life today, and we look at it in a different way.' New? I said, 'there is nothing new under the sun. The newness is only in your conception; it is new to you because you did not know it before. It may be new to you, but to someone else it certainly is not new!'
A material scientist today finds out something and says, 'Here is a new discovery!' Another says, 'No, it is not true; here is another discovery, which proves it wrong.' And so it goes on; every year there are many new discoveries. Sometimes, too, one scientist does not think like another; they may belong to the same school, and yet each has his own idea, which does not agree with the other man's. But when we consider the mystics and thinkers who look at life from a spiritual point of view, they all agree, be they Yogis, Sufis, Buddhists, or Christians – it does not matter which. When they arrive at a certain stage of understanding they all agree, they all have the same experiences, they all have the same realization to which they come in spite of all differences. The differences in the dogmas of the various religions are only differences of form: those who look at the surface see variations, but those who look below the surface see one and the same truth hidden beneath all religions, which have been given at different times by different masters. Naturally, therefore, the method of expression is different, but when one comes to the essence it is all one and the same, and those who are spiritually evolved come to the conclusion that they do not differ one from the other in their belief.
One should, of course, understand the real meaning of belief. Very often it is his belief which keeps a man back from spiritual attainment, but more often it is belief which helps him to go forward. Belief is like a staircase. Each step takes one higher, but when one remains standing on a certain step of the staircase one does not progress. Belief may nail the feet to the ground and keep one there where there are millions of believers in God, and thus there are many simple people who do not get the full benefit from belief. But this does not mean that belief has no function. It simply means that these people do not understand the real meaning of belief; they only know how to remain standing on a certain spot on a staircase.
As a person evolves so his belief evolves, until he comes to that stage where he harmonizes with all the different beliefs, where he is no longer against any belief. Then he is not nailed down any more; he is above all the different beliefs. Very often a person says, 'I cannot understand what God is. Can you explain God to me?' But if God were to be explained He would not be God. To explain God is to dethrone God.
God apart, can one explain anything fine and subtle such as gratitude, love, or devotion, in words? How much can be explained? Words are too inadequate to explain great feelings, so how can God be explained in words? Nevertheless, in the language of metaphysics the Absolute is the omniscient Spirit, the essence of Intelligence itself in its original condition. In the East they call it Nur, which means radiance; and the nature of radiance is to centralize; it is the centralizing of the radiance which illuminates. Physically one can say that the sun is the centralized all-pervading radiance; therefore the sun which we can see is only the point of centralization of the Nur, the light. In reality the sun is all; in the form of light it is the sun, and the sun is not only in that center, but wherever the light reaches in our houses and outside the sun is there. Its manifestation is indirect, yet it is all the sun.
When we look at the all-pervading Intelligence as centralized intelligence we call it God, because it begins with centralizing; from this point manifestation begins. For manifestation there must first be centralization. It is this which forms an entity, and the wise have called it God; but this does not make it a being which is separate from manifestation, just as the sun cannot be separated from the sunlight. Light is as much the sun as the sun we see before us, and in the same way manifestation is God as much as God is the origin and source of manifestation.
Now, when we study the sun we see that there is the sun and that there are rays. In the rays the sun is manifest in variety. But what are the rays? The sun. This is only an action of the sun where the radiance has been centralized. The first action is to project itself, to manifest in the form of various rays. And if I were to explain what we human beings are and what God is, I would say that our relationship with God is the same as that between the rays and the sun. Every soul is a ray of the sun, which is God. It is not our body or our mind which is the ray but the soul, whose nature it is to attract a garb from whichever sphere it touches in order to cover itself so that it can live in that particular sphere. It is this garb which the soul has borrowed that we call our physical body, a clay which has been kneaded for many centuries to make the body of man, a clay which was once a rock, which once manifested itself as a tree, which once appeared as animals and birds. This same clay, in its finished form, has given the soul of man a garb, which he calls his body.
It is in this belief that the mystic differs from the scientist, not however in the understanding of the process. The scientist believes in the same process; that from dense earth the mineral and then the vegetable have gradually developed. Biology rests on this principle. The mystic, however, does not attribute to this garb the origin of the body which the soul takes for its use; he attributes it to the spirit, which takes the garb upon itself. This origin does not belong to the dense earth; it belongs to God; it is the ray of the sun. And is the ray separate from the sun? Never, and for the same reason man is never separate from God. In this material world one only sees that one lives on food, that one eats, that one needs air and water, and one does not see any other source of life; but in reality all these things which sustain man's body only sustain the garb which is earthly. Its real sustenance is different and belongs to the source from whence it comes and to which it is attached. It is thence that man draws all strength, vitality, and illumination every moment of his life. Therefore the proper name for God is 'origin.' The word 'God' is related to the Arabic Djod, which has this meaning. When man neglects the knowledge of self and of God, and only knows about the garb he wears, he does not know about himself. Whatever his learning and qualifications may be, they all pertain to the garb which he is wearing, but it is through the understanding of the spirit and the soul that man really acquires the knowledge of the self and of God.
Some people think that the physical garb is the only one the soul wears, but this is not so; in order to come to this plane of the earth the ray, the soul, must pass through two different spheres. The first sphere may be called the angelic sphere, and the next the sphere of the jinns. One may ask, 'Then why do I not see them, if I also have garbs from these other spheres?' But one can see them too if one has studied human nature minutely. Eating, drinking, and sleeping, all these faculties come from the physical world; but there are others: the love of music, appreciation of poetry, the tendency to invent wonderful things, all intellectual pursuits and phenomena come from the jinn world. Poets and thinkers show the garb of that sphere in the work they do in the physical world. This garb is hidden, but where? It has become their mind, and therefore the mind is the inner garb, while the body is the outer garb, which covers it. The mind is the garb which man has brought from the jinn sphere. But even before this man had still another garb, and this comes from the angelic sphere. Do we see any sign of it? Yes, in his devotion, in his idealistic tendencies, in his innocence, in the love and beauty of his nature, in all these qualities man shows the garb of the sphere of the angels.
Innocence always goes with a loving nature. A person who is loving is generally innocent also, whereas a person who is very clever is least loving. For the very reason that he is clever he has little love, for then love is buried in his cleverness. I do not mean to say that innocence is the most valuable quality; every quality has its place; nevertheless innocence is an angelic quality. Great prophets, saints, and sages, those, who have healed the wounds of humanity, were most innocent people. Innocence is the proof of spirituality. However great a person's cleverness may be, without innocence he cannot be spiritual; also, spirituality produces innocence.
The garb that man has brought from the angelic sphere is revealed in the form of unselfish love, devotion, high ideals, a worshipful attitude, and love of beauty. The first tendency shown by every infant from the time it opens its eyes is love of beauty: beautiful colors, beautiful things, all these attract it. Perhaps it does not see beauty as we do, for our sense of beauty has been spoiled by our experience and our ideas, but the infant comes to the earth with a natural sense of beauty. That which is really beautiful strikes the infant, and it loves it.