Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE difference between a scientist and a mystic is that the former analyzes the things he is interested in, studying them by different methods in order to ascertain as much information about them as he can, the ways in which they can be of any benefit, their uses, and their nature, whereas the mystic, though in a way doing the same, first aims at lighting that light within himself by which he can see in this world of darkness and illusion, instead of using some technical instrument or special scientific process. As it is said, ' Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven', so his first task is to light the candle within.
The story of Aladdin illustrates this truth. Aladdin could only win the princess if he first obtained the lamp, which she desired. He goes out into the world but cannot find the lamp there, so he goes into the forest where he meets someone who is able to show him the way to reach it. But the man cannot himself give it to him, which means that emotion by itself does not suffice to bring it. Aladdin is told to go to a certain mountain and repeat certain words, which will cause the side of the mountain to open. He does this, and the mountain opens, but when he is within the cave he begins to suffocate because there is no air. Nevertheless, persevering, he penetrates farther into the mountain and in time he comes upon the lantern.
It is with this light that the mystic gains the knowledge within himself. As soon as he has gained possession of this candle every-thing discloses its secret, and he gains a wisdom greater than that possessed by any scientist. One may think that a mystic cannot find out all that the scientist knows. True, but though the details discovered by the scientist may appear different, yet the mystic perceives the same truths, which the scientist is seeking. He does not use the same words or terms; he does not know about all the processes that the scientist does, and yet he finds the outlines of the whole of what the scientist gets to know by his laborious methods.
Some scientists have happened to be Sufis; Avicenna was one; Luqman was another; and their knowledge was greater because of their having the candle. Perhaps even without any technical training the mystic may have the greater knowledge, He may not know exactly how to make a chemical substance as a scientist may claim to do, but he can see the secret behind every object and the purpose which underlies it.
The mystic can analyze the whole world very easily and understand it through the vehicle of one individual body. It is true that he cannot realize everything at once, but when he sets about knowing some particular thing he will do so much sooner than anyone else can, because he has the light within him.
His method is meditative. The object of meditation is to raise the soul above the body and the mind. It is like opening oneself; opening the vehicles, the senses, and the various unseen faculties of the mind, the abstract faculties, which are beyond the perceptive faculties. These vehicles are open by way of meditation, and the soul now works through all parts, seen and unseen, instead of only blindly through one part of the being as hitherto. Even the bodily senses become more sensitive. The sense of touch becomes more acute; the sense of sight becomes more keen, as also the sense of hearing and the sense of taste and smell. In fact, activity as a whole, vigor of action, enthusiasm, all increase after meditation. When the bodily energy and its sensitiveness are greater this indicates that the other faculties which are not seen have also been increased; the reason, the imagination and its power of creation, the memory and its power of retaining thought. The ego is also developed; then after all these have been developed a still higher part of one's being begins to develop, the abstract being which is linked up with the others. The mind becomes the mind of another person; the thought becomes the thought of someone else. After this the mystic begins to work through objects and not merely through the people around him, and from this time on the objects work, as he desires them to work.
The mystics experiences and also his dreams are now more than mere phenomena; and so when a thought comes to him it grows into something greater than mere imagination, and it becomes a force acting through his mind to achieve an effect, be it constructive or destructive. Whatever arises in his mind becomes a reality, and the further he develops the more real does his kingdom become.
It is better to receive personal help than to practice yoga; there can be no system of training in which all the pupils receive the same, for each needs a different method which is adapted to his condition of life, his type of mind, his environment, his age, his education, the spiritual development to which he has attained, and his devotional tendency. Is devotion the best method, or is study or are practices best? This depends upon the pupils needs and capabilities. It is exactly the same as when a physician prescribes for a person: he must use different medicines according to the individual's type and personality. Patent medicines will not always do!
Man must realize that he has a power in him, which is greater than all other powers, this power is his will. Anger is a power, for it is a part of the energy, which manifests as anger. Excitement, passion, and other emotions are manifestations of one energy, yet all such powers are in the hands of one single power, namely the will. They are ruled, controlled, and utilized by it. A person can not be angry unless his will is at the back of it. He has to have the will power to defend himself; otherwise the anger would be helpless. The anger is there, but the will power is greater. If the will power is not behind it the faculty will not work, even if not suppressed. As long as the will power does not help, the faculty is ineffective, though present.
This one power, the will power, is within. Should this power work with the consent of wisdom, everything would become allowable – anger, calmness, war, fighting, peace, love, hate. For instance there is a time when anger helps, and there is a time when peace helps, when calmness helps. We have to understand their rhythm, for, as in music, if we do not keep the right time it is because we do not understand the rhythm; but if we understand it, it will not matter what we do; things will turn out all right. All is right when wisdom, counsel, and will power are in harmony, but if the will is under control of anger or other passions, so that they manifest regardless of wisdom and come into play at their own time, which again depends on the person's habits, then he will surely get angry every day. He gets cross because he has made it a habit, and his will has submitted. If this happens every day for eight days it will happen also on the ninth, or else perhaps he may fall ill. The power which should be obedient to the will controls it instead, and so the will works without wisdom, in spite of the fact that wisdom is the only reliable power which God has given to man.
There is a passage in the Quran which says, ' Rise to pray during the night or part of it and recite the Quran; surely We will light upon you a weighty word... And remember the Name of thy Lord...' What speculation this passage has aroused! The solution of its mystery is this, that desire for comfort controls the will so much, the will power has become so subjected to desire for comfort, that comfort controls the will. The will has become a slave to experiences of joy and pleasure that we get from all kinds of comfort. For instance there is no greater comfort than sleep, so when we have to get up before dawn to repeat the name of the Lord we do not feel inclined to do this. We have to fight the greatest comfort we can experience each day, but once we have started fighting we begin to crush the power on the surface, which is pleasure and comfort. It is the ego, fed on pleasures and comforts of all kinds, which is our enemy. Therefore once we crush our ego our will becomes the ruler over our pleasures, and when the will is master we are master. The variety of our past life is now submitted to the unity of our being.
There is one part of our being which we can call, ' my self,' and that one part must control the many beings – the nose, eyes, ears, etc. – which belong to us. Once we have gained control we can proceed without interference by them; we can keep them out whenever we please. From that time light comes, and we get to know and understand all the things we never knew before. The light has now been disclosed to us by God.
There are three things, which we should master during our every day life, and three ways of achieving them. Consider the power of half-an-hour's concentration as compared with the weakness of giving in all day long! We can control ourselves in all the requirements of the body and of our senses, and the mind must give permission to every demand on their part, without being confused in the matter. There is the beginning of the act, there is the act itself, and there is the result of the act; and these three stages in the life of self-mastery or self-control bring increasing happiness and satisfaction, There is the satisfaction in the thought of fulfilling some particular desire; there is the satisfaction during the time it is being fulfilled; there is the satisfaction after it has been fulfilled. When there is no confusion or depression or despair or remorse or repentance, then the happiness increases. There is no other proper way of directing one's life.
The various practices recommended by the mystics all have the same purpose, whether it be fasting, stretching out the hands, clasping the fingers, or whatever it may be. The mystic withholds all activity for a moment, for half a minute, perhaps for fifteen minutes, Nature wants motion, so when we stop the desire, and sit straight and erect, the mind at once gets a grasp on the whole body, for the whole body is now under discipline. It is discipline when the body obeys the mind; that is why all through life our mind should be in control of all things.
The next thing to consider is character. We must take care never to do anything which, when we see another person do it, we consider a mistake or undesirable or foolish. If it is something we do not approve of we must resist the inclination to do such an undesirable thing ourselves, to do something we can not tolerate when another person does it. It is by this resistance of impulses that we control ourselves.
A more perfect way of behaving is the religious way. We should realize that the essence of every religion is to regard as our goal the God whom we are worshipping. He whom we seek is nowhere else but in the human heart. By reflecting on this thought we come to recognize that whatever kind of person we meet, be he foolish or wise, weak or strong, poor or rich, wicked or virtuous, we are in the presence of the Lord before whom we all bow; for if He is anywhere it is in the human heart, even in the heart of a wicked person. We must say to ourselves, ' My ideal, my desire, is to please my Lord before whom I bow my head. So when I stand before anyone I stand before the Lord, my God.' This is the real religion; but if we were careful not to hurt a loved one or a friend but did not mind hurting a servant or a wicked or foolish person, that would not be real religion.
Love will recognize the ideal of love, the divine ideal, in every heart, and will refrain from using words which will make another unhappy: words expressing pride, thoughtless words, sarcastic words, any words that will disturb a person's peace of mind or his sensibilities. So an abrupt action is harmful too. What can one gain by it?
Thus when developing fineness of character one learns to consider another person's feelings. A man may consider himself very sensible, and at the same time wish that another person would not hurt or insult him. He thinks to himself, 'This man talks too much; he annoys me; how badly he dresses, etc.' Whereas we believe one person to be sensible and understanding another we think is not; but we should forget what we ourselves think, and bethink ourself of what another thinks. It shows so much greater fineness of character when one does not give grounds for offense to others, but it is very difficult to attain this. There is no benefit in making our life so regular and orderly that it offends everybody else; it is in the understanding and consideration of other people's feeling that true religion lies.