Volume IX: The Unity of Religious Ideals
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
THE SPIRITUAL HIERARCHY
The idea of a spiritual hierarchy has always been discussed in all ages, and especially at this time when people have many more divergent conceptions regarding spiritual problems. The spiritual hierarchy is not a product of man’s imagination. It is not only a poetic idea; but it is as real as one’s own being. Among hills and mountains there are small mountains and there are big mountains. Among rivers there are smaller and larger rivers; and all through nature one finds the evidence of nature’s hierarchy.
What gives us the best picture of life is the sky with the planets, and the sun apart as a giver of light and life. When we consider all the planets, including the moon, we shall find they are all receptacles of light, reflecting the light of the sun according to their capacity. The moon functions to the greatest degree as a receptacle of this same light.
According to the mystical point of view, if it were not for the moon the whole cosmos would go to pieces, for the reason that the central currents of the sun are functioning in the moon, which reflects the light of the sun in fullness. The difference is that as it is only the reflection of the sun, though a full reflection, it has finer currents of light. These are soft, cooling, attractive, and beautiful. Therefore, the light of the sun is called Jelal by the Sufi’s, and the light of the moon Jemal. The former expresses power, the latter beauty. The former is creative, the latter responsive. It is the sun, which has the light. The moon posses the light of the sun, not its own. God is the Knower, and the All wise, and the one who gives His message gives God’s knowledge, not his own. What the moon may seem to give as light, is not its own. It is the light of the sun; and so it has been with the messengers at all times. People have heard them speak, and therefore they call it the message of Buddha or of Christ or of Mohammad; but in reality the message was always God’s.
All beings in the world are the receptacle of God’s message; not only human beings, but also even the lower creation. All objects and all conditions convey to us the message of the one and only Being. But the difference is that although they convey the message of God, they do not know it. They are not conscious of it. Not only objects but also, even human beings are unconscious of it. If they only knew that there is nothing in this world which is not the instrument of God.
As there are more useful and less useful objects, so there are more important and less important human beings. If they were all equal, there would not have been the diversity of different ranks and positions in a state. There would not have been generals and colonels in the army, but only soldiers. There would not have been high and low notes on the piano but only one key, one note, one sound. There would not have been different rooms in the house but every room would have been a drawing room. This shows that it is a necessity of life that there should be a hierarchy, either by election or by appointment, for the world cannot exist without it. Aristocracy and democracy are not two things, but essentially one; and in both cases there is only one chief thing, and that is hierarchy. When it is right, it is called aristocracy; when it goes wrong and a new spirit comes to rebuild it, this process is a state of democracy. It is natural that man should be agitated over one thing when he wants to build something else. He revolts against everything that existed before, and so, in rebuilding, this revolutionary spirit often acts to his disadvantage.
Just as there is a system of government externally, so there is also a system of inward government. One can see this government in every family too. There is a king in every family; there are ministers, counselors, partakers of his responsibility, and servants who are paid for their work. Taking the universe as one whole, it also has a system of government. There is a system of government in the sky. There is the sun, then there is the moon, which is directly focused on the sun, there are the principal planets, which surround it, and there are the stars. And on the model of the heavens the inner and outer governments of the earth are planned.
Man’s body is arranged in the same way. There is one principal factor, then there are working factors like servants, then the principal ministers, and when one takes the being of a man, from his soul to his body it is one complete kingdom, constituted of all the necessary officials and servants, making one’s being like a kingdom. Thus in all circumstances there will always be a king. No democratic ideal, however much it may be against the aristocratic form, will ever succeed in life without forming a kingdom; the only difference is that if the head or leader is not called King he will be named President.
In the spiritual hierarchy, there are seven grades of spiritual souls, and each grade is divided into two classes, Jelal and Jemal. And descending from the combination of these two spirits there comes a third line as a central line. This is the spirit of prophecy, which is called the Spirit of Guidance. It has never been necessary for any of the members of the hierarchy to make claims for themselves. In this world of falsehood there are many false claims, and in the worldly life even the real claims are no more true than false. Also, there is no reason why these claims should be made, since the holders of these offices can serve their purpose better by being silent than by announcing themselves.
Every office in the world is accompanied by a certain amount of vanity, and vanity is the greatest enemy of spiritual people. Then there is always the jealousy of human nature at work, and also the competition and rivalry that give stimulus to life in the world. That is why the office has always been concealed by the spiritual office-holders, except by the teachers who had to give the message of God to the people. And how many in the world would not believe the teacher unless they knew he was the office-bearer from God!
The lives of the teachers were the example and proof of their office. They had no other evidence but that. Miracles only became known afterwards. Legends were formed afterwards. Poems were made afterwards. Temples were built afterwards. Their following increased afterwards, and their words were valued afterwards. But during their lifetime they met with nothing but opposition and the inconstancy of their followers, who agreed one day and disagreed the next. They suffered all sorts of ordeals, even crucifixion.
The teacher’s position is more delicate than that of the master, because he must make claims and be among the people. And being among people is like being a bird coming from a distant forest and arriving in a strange land. All the other birds, finding it different from themselves, wish to fight it and torture it, and even kill it. That has been the lot of the prophet at all times, and it will always be the same. The last one left a warning for the one who came after him, which was that the prophecy was sealed. He did not mean by this that the work of the Spirit of Guidance was sealed. In the future the message should be given without a claim, and it would be the work that was done that would prove its genuineness, instead of a claim.
According to the Sufi conception there are seven degrees in the spiritual hierarchy, which can be distinguished as different stages of responsiveness, in other words of higher initiation. They are: Pir, Buzurg, Wali, Ghauth, Qutb, Nabi, Rasul. These are the degrees belonging to the inner initiation to which a disciple becomes entitled after receiving the necessary outer initiations. It is beyond words to express what inner initiation means and in what from it is given. Those to whom the inner initiation is unknown may explain it as a dream or as a vision, but in reality it is something higher and greater than that. I can only explain it by saying that the definite changes which taker place during one’s journey on the spiritual path are initiations, and it is these initiations which include man in the spiritual hierarchy.
People call them masters, but in reality they are pupils; for in point of fact no one in the world as a master save God. Man’s privilege is to become a greater pupil. Therefore none of the great ones have called themselves masters, nor have they considered themselves to be so. What they have known in their lives is the privilege of opening their hearts wider and wide to reflect the light of the Master who is God Himself. The progress of these high initiates is according to their responsiveness, for they have never connected
themselves with what they have expressed.
Very often parents say something to their child in which there is the voice of God. Very often a kind friend suggests something to his friends, out of his love and sympathy, which happens to be a message of God. Sometimes a teacher says an inspiring word, which is like a word coming direct from God. Even from an innocent child a word may come as a warning from God; for all faces are His faces, and from all lips it is His word that comes, whenever it comes, but those who respond to Him become as His appointed servants. People call them Chosen Ones; but in reality God has chosen all, for all souls are near to the Creator. But the soul who is attached to the lips of God like a trumpet becomes the herald of His message, and what comes through his lips is not his own words, but the message of God.
In the life of a saint or master five degrees can be recognized, the progress of the saint and of the master being silent in the last two degrees; but in the life of a prophet all seven degrees are manifested to view. A saint or a master has one facility. He can do his work avoiding the notice of the world. But the life of the prophet compels him to go into the world, and thus, as he progresses from grade to grade through his life, he cannot hide himself, however much he may want to, from the gaze of the world. However, the sage of every category and degree, be he a saint, master or prophet, always prefers to remain unknown to the world; and as he progresses that desire increases. It is not only out of modesty or humbleness, but also for the protection of the spiritual ideal, which has developed in him, for it attracts dangers of all sorts when it is exposed to the common gaze. All beauty is veiled by nature and the higher the beauty, the more it is concealed. This makes it easy for a wise man to find out the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet, for one beats his drums and the other tries to keep in the background. If only his work in the world would let him remain there! But his efforts to accomplish something bring him to the notice of the world. However, his longing is to be unknown, for the only one who really deserves to be known is God.
The work of the Pir is helping individuals toward the unfoldment of their soul, and that of the Buzurg is to help by the power of his soul those who wish to advance spiritually.
Wali is the initiate whose will has come close to the divine will, and he shows it in the harmony which reigns in his own life, not only with his friends, but he will also be in harmony with an adversary. He shows harmony with the changing weather, and its different influences, and he is within harmony with all that he eats and drinks. He is in harmony with the place he lives and moves about in, and he harmonizes with all atmospheres. And so his will becomes the will of God; in other words, the will of God becomes his will. He may control a community, keeping it on the right track, but he mostly does the work for which he is appointed in an unobtrusive way. The greater a person is in spiritual advancement, the less assuming he becomes, and the more he avoids every show of piety or spirituality.
Ghauth is the next grade of the initiates. The influence of the Ghauth is wider. He gives up his personality wholly to the divine guidance, and wherever this Ghauth may be there will be an atmosphere of protection from all kinds of dangers such as floods, storms, plagues, or famines. He promotes the spiritual well being of a community.
Qutb is the third degree of a master, a still higher grade, when his mind becomes focused on the divine mind, and he has, to a lesser or greater extent, power over all elements, as well as influence upon life. Under him there is a dominion in which he is responsible for the order and peace of souls. He governs a country or nation spiritually.
Nabi is the apostle, called in Sanskrit Bodhisatva, whose spirit reflects the Spirit of Guidance. His work is mainly the giving of the message in the form of warning, awakening, preaching, teaching, and inspiring those to whom he may be sent. He comes into the lives of those who are meant to be guided along the spiritual path. He is sent to nations when they are meant to change their conditions. He is sent to a community or race to give warnings. He is meant to be a reformer at the times when a reformer is needed. He elevates individuals and bears a divine message.
Rasul is the world-messenger, who comes for all people at the time of the world’s need, and brings with him that inspiration, influence, and power which will harmonize humanity. He may be a king or a pauper; in whatever condition he comes, he will fulfil the purpose of his coming to earth. Answering the cry of humanity, he fulfils the purpose of his mission. The sign of Rasul is the crescent, which represents a responsive heart.
No man in the world has the power to give these higher initiations. They are given by God himself, and the initiates prove their initiations not in their claims, but in their works. The soul rises to that stage where manhood ends and godhead begins, enters the initiation of the spiritual hierarchy, and then he is neither man nor God. He is not God, because he is limited man; and he is not man, because he is God-conscious.
THE MASTER, THE SAINT, AND THE PROPHET
There are three roads to spiritual attainment, which meet in the end at one junction. One road is that of the master. Another comes from quite a different point and is the road of the saint. The middle path between the two is that of the prophet. The path of the master is a path of war, war with those outer influences, which prevent one from making one’s way through life. The path of the master requires self-discipline and willpower to make headway through life. He conquers himself. He battles with life. He is at war with destiny. He crusades against all that seems to him wrong. He finds the key to the secrets unknown to him. He turns all conditions, all things, all people, into the shape that he wishes, and molds as he likes the personalities that come in touch with him. He tunes personalities to the tone, which will suit his orchestration.
It is a path of accomplishment. All that the master takes up, he accomplishes. All that the master desires, he attains, sooner or later. Yet the master’s one desire is spiritual attainment at its fullest. Therefore to him all other attainments, spiritual or material, are nothing but many steps on a staircase. The struggle on the path of the master is great. He has to struggle all the way. Every condition that he has to face on the way to accomplishment is harder to cope with than the one before. No doubt, as he advances on the path of attainment, he gains power through struggle. The greater the struggle through life, the greater his power. He has command over objects. He produces effects in objects, which are not naturally there. He can even rise to a state where he can command nature.
The spiritual hierarchy is made up of the masters. The world is ruled and governed, and although the spiritual hierarchy is different from outward governments, it is nevertheless an inner government. In the East such masters, whose thought, whose feeling, whose glance, whose impulse, can move the universe, are called Wali. The master may advance gradually through the five principal stages of attainment, and may even arrive at the stage of Rasul in the end.
The path of the saint is one of love, harmony, and beauty; ready to give, ready to sacrifice, ready to renounce, ready to give in and to yield. The saintly soul accepts all insults as a purifying process. He is resigned to every loss, for there is no loss without some gain and there is no gain, which is without any loss. There is always a hidden loss in the gain and a gain in the loss. Renunciation is not difficult for that soul, for in renunciation it finds its freedom. No sacrifice is too great for the saintly soul, for it gives it happiness. It need not learn generosity, for this is its nature, its character. Modesty, humility, tolerance, and forgiveness are part of the saint’s being. He cannot do otherwise, for he knows no other way.
No doubt in the beginning the saintly soul finds difficulty on this path. The path of the saint is a constant battle with the self, for there is no end to the world’s demands. In this world no one can be too good or too kind. The better one is the more good is asked of one. The kinder one is, the more kindness is expected from one; and so it goes on through life. The happiness a saintly soul finds, through life, lies in the fact that his will is gradually becoming harmonized with the will of God, so that God’s will and his will in time become one. And no one can imagine that happiness except the souls who have experienced the feeling of resignation to all the crosses that one has to bear in life.
The spirit of a saint at last becomes tuned to the whole universe. He is in tune with all climates, with the weather, with nature, with the animals and birds. He becomes in tune with the trees and plants, in tune with all atmospheres, with all human beings of various natures, because he becomes the keynote of the whole universe. All harmonize with him. The virtuous souls, the wicked souls, angels and devils, all become in tune. He is in harmony with every object, with every element. He is in tune with those who have passed from this earth, with those in the other spheres as well as with those who live on earth. The moral of a saint is very difficult, but the spirit of the saint is a benediction to himself and a blessing to others.
The work of the master is to protect individuals and to safeguard the world, to keep away disasters that might be caused by the inharmony of the nature both of individuals and of the collectivity. It is to help those who are feeble but in the right, who are weak but just, when they are opposed by a powerful enemy. The work of the saint is to console the wretched, to take under the wings of mercy and compassion those left alone in life, to bless the souls that he meets on his path.
The way of the prophet is more balanced, for in the life of the prophet there is a balance of these two attributes: the power of attainment and the patience to be resigned to the will of God. So the prophet is at the same time both a warrior and a peacemaker. This way is Kemal, that is, perfect or balanced. The work of the prophet is not only in his own spiritual attainment, but he has a service of great importance to perform. As the prophet goes through the five stages on his way towards the fulfillment of his life’s mission he acts as a warner, a healer, a reformer, a lawyer, a teacher, a priest, and as a preacher. Such service keeps the prophet away from what his soul always craves for, and that is the solitude of the wilderness. He longs for one place, and he is put in another place. The very soul who constantly yearns to flee from the crowd, because of his mission is put in the very midst of the crowd. Thus the work of the prophet in the world becomes as hard as if a person were asked to jump into the water and then come out dry. He must live in the world and not be of the world. However, it is very often the prophetic soul whose life’s mission is to serve humanity in time of need, and it is the fulfillment of his service, which makes Rasul, the messenger.
The prophet is the message-bearer. The prophet is both master and servant. The prophet is a teacher and at the same time a pupil, for there is a great deal that he must learn from his experience in life; not in order to make it possible for him to receive the message, but in order to make himself capable of giving the message. For God speaks to the prophet in His divine tongue, and the prophet in his turn interprets it in the language of men, making it intelligible to them, trying to put the most subtle ideas in the gross terms of worldly language. Therefore not all that the prophet comes to give to the world is given in words, but that which cannot be given in words is given by his presence. It is given by the great love that gushes forth from his heart. It is given in his kind glance, and it is given in his benediction. And yet the most is given in silence that no earthly sense can perceive. The difference between human language and divine words is this, that a human word is a pebble. It exists, but there is nothing further. The divine word is a living word, just like a grain of corn. One grain of corn is not only one grain. In reality it is hundreds and thousands, for in the grain there is an essence which is always multiplying, and which will show perfection in itself.
The prophet is the manifestation of the same Spirit, which, in its fullest expression, can rightfully be called Alpha and Omega. Although the spirit of Alpha and Omega is really in all beings: in a loving mother, in a kind father, in an innocent child, in a helpful friend, in an inspiring teacher. The prophet is a mystic, and greater than a mystic. The prophet is a philosopher, and greater than a philosopher. The prophet is a poet, and greater than a poet. The prophet is a teacher, and greater than a teacher. The prophet is a seer, and greater than a seer. Why greater? Because he has a duty to perform, together with the blessing that he brings upon earth.
In the East, the prophet is termed Payghambar. There are also two other names, Nabi and Rasul; and although all these names mean a prophet, yet each of them signifies a certain attribute of the prophet; also, each of those words denotes a certain degree of his evolution. Payghambar literally means ‘message-bearer’, and this word is used for holy ones who brought a divine message from time to time to a certain community, nation, or race, whenever there was a need of awakening in certain people. The Payghambar acted as an alarm to warn people of coming dangers he also brought reforms to improve the condition of his people.
There are two steps in the life of the messenger, one minor and the other major. One stage is when he begins to give the message. The next stage is when the message is fulfilled. Nabi is one who begins to give the message. Rasul is the one who fulfills the message.
Nabi is the prophet who has not only come for a certain section of humanity. Although he may only live and move in a limited region of the world, yet what he brings has its influence upon the whole of humanity. It may not be fulfilled in his lifetime, but a day of fulfillment will come, even if it be centuries later, so that all he brought at last reaches the whole of humanity. Rasul is a term which denotes a more advanced degree, when the prophet has not only brought a message to the world, but has fulfilled his task during his lifetime through all the tests and trials that a prophet has to meet in life.
The prophet is an interpreter of the divine law in a human tongue. He is an ambassador of the spiritual hierarchy, for he represents to humanity the illuminated souls who are both known and unknown to the world, who are both hidden and manifest, and who are both in the world and beyond the world. The prophet is both an initiate and an initiator, for he is an answer to the cry of humanity, as much of individuals as of the collectivity. He is the one who sympathizes with those in pain, guides those in darkness, harmonizes those who are in conflict, and brings peace to the world, which is always losing its equilibrium, excited by centuries of its own activity.
The prophet can never tell the ultimate truth, which only his soul knows and no words can explain. His mission is, therefore, to design and paint and picture the truth in words that may be intelligible to mankind. The bare truth not every man can see. If he can he needs no more teaching. The prophet, so to speak, listens to the words of God in the language of God, and interprets those words in human language. He speaks to every man in his own tongue. He converses with every man on his own plane. Therefore he has little chance to disagree, unless there is someone who wants disagreement and nothing else. There he cannot help.
Besides the words, which an intellectual person can speak also, the prophet brings the love and the light, which is the food of every soul. The very presence of the prophet may make a person see things differently, and yet he may not know that it was because of the prophet. He may only think that that which was not clear to him, or for a moment seemed difficult to him, is now simple and clear. For the prophet is a living light, a light which is greater in power than the sun, for the light of the sun can only make things clear to the eyes, but the light that the prophet brings to the world makes the heart see all that the eyes are not capable of seeing. The prophet brings love, the love of God who is the Father and Mother of the whole of humanity, a love that is life itself. No words or actions can express that love. The presence of the prophet and his very being speak of it, if only the heart has ears to listen. Verily, to the believer all is rights, and to the unbeliever all is wrong.
The principal work of the prophet is to glorify the name of God, and to raise humanity from the denseness of the earth, to open the doors of the human heart to the divine beauty which is manifested everywhere, and to illuminate souls which have been groping in darkness for years. The prophet brings the message of the day, a reform for that particular period in which he is born. The claim of prophet-hood is nothing to the real prophet. His being, his work, and the fulfillment of his task, it is these which are the proof of the prophet-hood.
THE SPIRIT OF GUIDANCE
The Spirit of Guidance may be called in other words the divine mind; and as the human mind is completed after its coming on earth, so the divine mind is completed after manifestation. In fact, the Creator’s mind is made out of His own creation. The experience of every soul becomes the experience of the divine mind; therefore the divine mind has the knowledge of all beings. It is a storehouse of perfect wisdom. It is the soul of Christ and the spirit of prophecy. Intuition, inspiration, vision, and revelation, all come from the same source whence every kind of revelation comes, and that is the divine mind.
There are some who receive knowledge from the divine mind indirectly, and some who receive it directly. In those souls, which happen to receive the central current of the Spirit of Guidance, the spirit of prophecy is conceived. The messengers of all times, of whom we hear in the histories and traditions of the world, have been souls in whom the central current of the divine light has functioned. In other words, the prophets of all ages have been the reflections of the divine mind on earth. No one has ever seen God, and if evidence of God’s existence has ever been manifested, it was in the man who reflected God. Apart from all that the prophets have taught, it was their personality, which proved their prophecy. In their thought, speech, and word they reflected God, which was more than morals, doctrines, and teachings could do.
Every inspired person reflects in his own way some divine spark hidden in his soul, which wins the world. A musician may show his inspiration in music. A poet may show it in his poetry. An artist may show his inspiration in his art. But the central ray of light, which the prophets reflect, falling upon every plane and every aspect of life, makes all things clear to their sight. Therefore the presence of the prophet clears away perplexity from the minds of those who are confused. In his presence a person can feel and think more clearly, even without having spoken to him. Many forget their questions when before a prophet, for the light falling upon their hearts brings them the answer, and they realize that the answer was in themselves, something that they already knew. No doubt both the question and answer are in the soul. The first step of the soul’s progress raises questions, and the second step brings the answer. This is why a prophetic soul is also a physician, a scientist, and an artist. A prophetic soul is capable of commerce, industry, and business, and he is qualified in warfare and competent in peacemaking.
The Spirit of Guidance is like the yeast, which is used to make bread, preparing humanity for the purpose for which it was created. The Spirit of Guidance is a plant that grows and blossoms when it meets with response and care; and when it is watered by the rainfall of divine inspiration it blooms in the light of the divine sun. The Spirit of Guidance is the light of God, which may be likened to a lantern that the farmer carries when walking on the farm in the darkness of night. It is like a searchlight, which shows up any object upon which it is thrown; and so when the light of the Spirit of Guidance is thrown upon any aspect of life, man receives a keen insight into it. In the Spirit of Guidance one finds a living God active in the heart of every person.
One who depends upon the Spirit of Guidance to direct his life, is guided rightly. We always have a counsel within, but the one who ignores the existence of the Spirit of Guidance is left alone by it for some time, so that he has to look out for himself. It is like the mother and the dependent child that tries to hold its mother’s hand at every step it takes; so the mother’s whole attention is drawn to every step of her child. But when the child tries to move about by its own will, and tries to keep away, then the attention of the mother, to some extent, becomes released. This does not mean that the mother entirely gives up the care of the child. It only means that she allows the child to have its own way to some extent, and feels sorry when the child falls and hurts itself. In point of fact, all souls are children of God, but such souls as are conscious of their relationship with God, like that between a child and its parents, certainly deserve to be called children of God. They are especially cared for. They are always guided, because they ask for guidance.
Divinity is that aspect of God, which emanates from God and forms itself into the Spirit of Guidance. The Spirit of Guidance may thus be called the heart of God, a heart which is the accumulator of all feelings, impressions, thoughts, memories, and of all knowledge and experience. It is like putting a man at the head of a factory who has been in that factory from the beginning. He has had experiences of all kinds, of the pioneer work and of how things have changed, of the new methods and of the right or wrong results, which have come out of them. All such impressions have thus been collected in that one person.
In this mechanism of the world, all that happens, all that is experienced in the way of thought and feeling, is accumulated. Where? In the heart of God. Divinity is that heart which contains all wisdom and to which all wisdom belongs. The heart of God is the intelligence and the current of guidance in the heart of every man, and therefore it is not disconnected from the heart of man. Indeed, the heart of man is one of the atoms, which form the heart of God.
If people have called Christ divine that is right too. The heart of the Master, which fully reflected the divine heart naturally, showed the sign of divinity. Not understanding this, people made this idea exclusive and incomprehensible, and by this they have taken away the ground from under the feet of the Master. And by this, too, further harm has been done, taking away the worthiness of who was made to be the representative of God. The Hebrew scriptures say that man was made in the image of God, and the Muslim scripture says that man was made the Khalif of God, which means His representative.
When one says that man was born in sin, that man is on earth and that God is in heaven, one separates man from God; and this takes away the possibility of human perfection of which Christ has said, “Be ye therefore perfect, as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” That possibility of human perfection is taken away by making the idea of divinity exclusive and remote, and thus depriving man of the bliss of God which was meant for him. That is why disputes have arisen among the followers of different religions, each of them thinking their teacher to be the only teacher. For that reason wars have taken place in all ages, and people have disagreed with one another. People from one community have called the others heathen, depriving themselves of the bliss, which constantly is, which was, and which always will be.
In reality the Spirit of Guidance may be pictured as one thread; and all the great masters of humanity are like the beads on that thread: one spirit and many individualities; one soul and many personalities; one wisdom and many teachers who have expounded wisdom according to their own personality. But at the same time, wisdom always being one they cannot be compared with different scientists. For scientists when they have discovered something new say they have made a new discovery; but the prophets have never said that they had made a new discovery. They have always said, ‘What those who came before me perceived I perceive, and those who come after thousands of years will perceive the same.’ Yet in spite of that it is always new, for every moment has its new joy. As Hafiz says, ‘Sing, my soul, a new song that every new moment inspires in you.’
Once the soul awakens, it begins to see that truth is always new and renews the soul, giving it perpetual youth. When one finds differences between the reachers of humanity, these are only in the lives they lived. But no matter what their life was, whether they were kings or fairs, whether they walked or rode on an elephant’s back whether they were on a throne or in mountain caves or in deserts, they all had the same experience: realization. They might appear to be comfortable and rejoicing, but they heard the same note which others heard in tortures. Those who were kings such as Solomon and David, and those who were sages such as Krishna and Buddha, all these different souls had the same realization, the same philosophy. There could never be an argument if they were all to meet. But they are not meant to meet because they are all one. It was the Spirit of Guidance, which manifested through these different names and forms.
When one looks at this subject from a metaphysical point of view, one observes that light has three principal currents: one current that takes the central line and shoots out, one current that goes to the right, and a third one that goes to the left. It is these three currents which are the secret of what is called Trinity, and by this threefold aspect the mystery of manifestation can be interpreted.
The current of the Spirit of Guidance, which runs to the right, is significant of power; that is why those who came under that current were called masters. The characteristic of such a soul is power. He is one who conquers himself, who contends with circumstances, struggles with life, and rises above conflicts.
The story of Daniel in the lions’ den is the picture of the master: of the magnetism, power, and peace that make lions tame. The same power spreads and in time makes all hard things soft. The master therefore is a living power. His power of mind, of feeling, of heart, of spirit has its influence on all living beings, things, and objects to what extent, the human mind cannot imagine.
The other current, which runs to the left, is the sign of the saintly inspiration; of that passive character which has the desire to serve, an overflowing sympathy, a tender heart, widespread compassion, continual forgiveness, a gentle manner, a constant self-sacrifice, and perpetual renunciation.
And the central current, which is prophetic, is both, the power of the master and the wisdom of the saint. Such a character has been directed to go into the world, to the crowd, to endure the coarse vibrations of men, to go through all the experiences of life and yet to retain that fineness, delicacy, and tenderness which keep the soul close to God and in communication with the Spirit of Guidance, which ever flows and manifests in the form of the message.
THE PROPHETIC SOUL
The soul of the prophet represents both the human and the divine. His feet on the earth and his head in heaven, he has to journey on the path of life, to respect and regard reason, and yet to cling to that rope which hangs down from heaven which he calls faith, two things quite contrary to each other. The world of variety with its numberless changes compels him to reason things out, while the world of unity promises to his unwavering faith the answer to every demand of life.
There is a Sufi expression, Akhlak-e Allah, which means the manner of God, and this manner can be seen in the prophetic soul. No one knows the manner of God, since God can not be seen by earthly eyes, but if there is any sign of God to be seen, it is in the God-conscious one; and it is the fullness of God-consciousness which makes a prophetic soul.
The life of the prophet is like that of someone walking upon a rope: matter on one side and spirit on the other; heaven on one side and earth on the other; the imperfect self journeying towards perfection and at the same time bearing the burden of numberless souls, many of whom have not yet learned to walk even upon the earth. In the history of the prophets, at whatever time they have come on earth, one reads of their struggle being fourfold: struggle with self, struggle with the world, struggle with friends, and struggle with foes; and yet many wonder why a prophet should be a warrior! Most people know that the Prophet Mohammad was a warrior, but are unaware of the fact that Moses had the same experience; and very few know that the whole lives of the prophets of India, Rama and Krishna, were nothing but warfare from beginning to end. Their scriptures are full of the wars and battles that went on all through their lives, and if some prophets apparently did not have to wage war, then they had some other form of warfare to go through. The blood of the martyrs was the foundation of the Church.
The seers and saints, who live a life of seclusion, are happy when compared with he prophet, whose life’s work is in the midst of the crowd. When he is known to be a prophet, jealousy and prejudice arise. If he is not known, he can do but little. When he goes into the world, the world absorbs him. When he thinks of God, God attracts him. Thus his spirit is pulled from both sides; and this is the meaning of the symbol of the cross. The prophet, representing God and His message, is tested and tried and examined by every soul. A thousand searchlights are thrown upon him; and he is not judged by one judge but by numberless judges. Every soul is a judge and has its own law to judge him with. The mystic is free to speak and act. What does he care what people think of him? The prophet, however, must be careful what they think, not for himself, but for those who follow him.
Besides all these difficulties, in the end he finds no comprehension of his ideal of service in the world except in God, who alone is his consolation. Many follow the prophet, but very few comprehend his ideal. It is this that made Mohammad say, “I am knowledge; Ali is the door.’ In the first place, to express a lofty thought in words or actions is the most difficult thing, because what is expressed in words and actions is only the surface of the thought. In the same way to express deep feeling in words and action is very difficult. And so is the message of the prophet. It is often difficult for it to be put into words. The best way of following a prophetic message, a way which has been known to very few, is to adopt the outlook of the prophet; for the point of view of any person can only be fully understood by seeing from that person’s point of view.
What is asked of a prophet? The prophetic soul must of necessity rise so high that it can hear the voice of God, yet at the same time it must bend so low that it can hear every little whisper of human beings. Even the slightest lack of consideration or regard for those who wished to attract their attention has been noticed and remarked in the lives of the prophets. Being a prophet means to live in heaven and to live on the earth at the same time. The heart of the prophet is meant to be a harp, every string of it tuned to its proper pitch, in order that God may play His music upon it. And it is that celestial music which is called the divine message.
That is why many of the ancient scriptures were names Githas, or Gathas, which mean the same thing: music. The gospel of Krishna is called Bhagavad Gita, which means the Song Celestial, the Song of god; and the Parsis call their sacred scripture Gatha. The Jewish scriptures are chanted when recited; also the Qur’an is recited in the form of singing.
Every musician knows how difficult it is to keep his violin in tune, especially when it is shaken; but the heart is incomparably more susceptible and gets out of tune far more easily. It is for this reason that the seers and mystics sought solitude and kept themselves away from the crowd; but the prophet, by nature of his mission, is placed in the midst of the crowd. It is the problem of life in the crowd which he has to solve; and yet not solve it intellectually, as everyone wishes to do, but spiritually, by keeping that instrument, the heart, in proper tune with the Infinite, so that he may get the answer to all the questions arising at every moment of the day.
Thus it is that even the presence of the prophet is the answer to every question. Without having spoken one word, the prophet gives the answer; but if a restless and confused mind cannot hear it, then that mind receives the answer in words. The answer of the prophet uproots every question; but the answer always comes from the heart of the prophet without his even having been asked a question. For the prophet is only the medium between God and man; therefore the answer is from God.
The Prophet does not answer a question because he reads the mind. It is the mind of the one who asks the question, which strikes, on the inner plane, that divine bell which is the heart of the prophet and God, hearing the bell answers. The answer comes as if words were put into the mouth of the prophet. Thus the prophet need not ponder upon the question he is asked. The question automatically draws the answer from him. This rule is applied not only to individuals, but also to the multitude. A thousand people may be listening to a prophet at the same time, each having a different question in his mind, and yet the question of each one of them will be answered. In the same way the true character of the sacred scriptures is such that even the book can answer the question if a person opens it automatically in order to find the solution to a certain problem. And if the book can give an answer, then one can expect more from the prophet for the soul of the prophet is the living book. His heart is the sacred scripture.
In the outer sense of the word religion is a form given to the worship of god, and law given to a community to help them to live harmoniously. In the inner sense of the word religion means a staircase, made for the soul to climb and reach that plane where truth is realized. Both these aspects of religion may be found in the words and in the soul of the prophet: his words, the law; his message, the wisdom; and his being, that peace which is the seeking of every soul. God has never manifested as Himself in this world of variety, where every thing and every being, although it is a divine expression, yet has its limitations. But if the world has been able to believe in God and to recognize God in any being, it is in the godly, it is in the soul which reflects God. With all the arguments for and against the divinity of Christ, no sincere believer in God can deny that God has been reflected in the personality of the Master.
There are two different conceptions of the prophetic soul. One is that of the Hindus, who called the prophetic souls Avatars, which means incarnations of God. They also distinguished the characters of their Avatarsaccording to their claims. Some claimed to be the Avataror the incarnation of Vishnu. Some claimed to be the incarnation of Shiva. It was easier for the people of India to grasp the idea of a prophet being a God incarnate than to accept him as another human being. The long line of prophets of Ben Israel were not called incarnations. They were called the godly, or the ones who were connected with God. Abraham was called Habib Allah, the friend of God. Moses was distinguished as Kalam Allah, the one who communicates with God. Jesus was called Ruh Allah, the spirit of God. Mohammad was called Rasul Allah, the messenger of God.
The difference between the prophets among the Hindus and those of Ben Israel, is that the Hindu prophets claimed to be God themselves. The reason was that owing to their philosophical evolution the people of India were ready to accept the divine in man; but in Arabia and Palestine on the contrary, even the prophetic claim aroused such opposition against the prophets that their lives were in danger and their mission became most difficult for them to perform.
After the claimants of godhead there have been many reformers in India, to whom people responded without much difficulty, but in the Near East it has always been difficult, and always will be so. It is for this reason that the ancient school of esotericism, the ancient Order of the Sufis, found it difficult to exist under the reign of orthodoxy. Many great Sufis have been made victims by the orthodox powers which reigned, until Sufism, that can be said to have been the mother of the coming reform in the religious world, was protected by Persia, and in the end found a still greater freedom in India, where the Hindus respected it and the Muslims followed it without the slightest hesitation. In the houses of the Sufis the followers of all religions met together in friendliness and in the feeling of brotherhood.
The Sufi message which is now being given in the Western world is the child of that mother who has been known for so many years as Sufism. It connects the two lines of the prophetic mission, the Hindu line and that of Ben Israel, in order that they may become the medium to unite in God and truth both east and west. It is the same truth, the same religion, the same ideal, which the wise of all ages have held. If there is anything different, it is only a difference of form. The Sufi message given now has adopted the form suitable for the age. It is a message without claim; and the group of workers in this message, and those who follow it, are called the Sufi Movement. Their work is to tread the spiritual path quietly, unassumingly, and to serve God and humanity. In this lies the fulfillment of the message.
A question, which is always asked, is how the prophetic soul receives the message of God; in what form. Does the angel Gabriel bring it, as it is said in the scriptures of Ben Israel? Does it come as voice? Does it come in a form, which is visible? And the answer is, that everything, which has been said about it in the ancient scriptures, has much truth in it, but very often some of the symbolical ideas are misinterpreted by the uninitiated. The idea of Gabriel as a messenger is partly imagination. The real Gabriel is that Spirit of Guidance, which is the soul of the prophets. Its voice is intuition, but to the attentive mind of the prophets this voice is sometimes so distinct that it becomes much louder than what is heard through the ears. For in their hearts a capacity is produced; in other words, their hearts become like domes, which echo every word. The heart of the ordinary person does not give that echo, so the inner voice becomes inaudible to one’s own soul. Just as a voice is necessary, so is hearing necessary also. Without hearing the voice is inaudible. The hearing is the capacity in the heart. When the heart becomes like an ear, then it begins to hear the voice that comes from within.
Then there is the question whether Gabriel manifested to the prophets in a certain form. That is also true. There is nothing in this world which is devoid of form except God who is formless, although the form of some things is visible, and that of other things invisible. Even thoughts and feelings have forms. One may call them results, but form is always a result. The heart, which can hear the inner voice louder than the spoken words, can certainly see the form, even the form which is not seen by every soul. In fact, the eyes of the prophet do see a form; for what the heart sees fully is also reflected in the eyes. It is not seen from without but from within, and yet it is seen. Not everyone can conceive of such an idea, for most are accustomed to see and hear only what comes from outside. But to the wise it is as clear as day that the eyes and the ears are not only the organs in which the impressions from the outer life are reflected, but that even impressions from the life within are also reflected in them.
It matters little to a prophet whether his ears hear or his heart hears, whether his eyes see or his heart sees. He knows that he hears and sees, and that is sufficient evidence for him of a living God. One may ask if this means that God is so personal that He speaks and manifests as a phantom to a certain soul, but if this were so it would only be limiting God. The limitless God cannot be made more intelligible to our limited self unless He is first made limited. That limited ideal becomes like an instrument, a medium of God who is perfect and who is limitless.
In the traditions of the ancients we find that there were many prophets of the past who, in a worldly sense, were not educated, among them the Prophet Mohammad. By many he was given the name Ummi, which means ‘unlettered’, although according to the ideas of that time the Prophet was very well versed in the Arabic language. This shows that worldly education does not make the prophet, though it may help to express in more intelligible form the spiritual message, which his heart receives.
We see in the world’s scriptures four different forms in which the prophetic message was given: the ancient Hindu form, which can be traced in the scripture of India and which was continued by Buddha; then the form of Ben Israel, which is to be found in the Old Testament, and which one can follow from the time of Abraham to the time of Mohammad. The third form is the form ofZarathushtra, which showed two aspects: the Gayatriof the Hindus and the prayer of Ben Israel; and the fourth form is the form of the New Testament, which gives the story and the interpretation of the teaching of Jesus Christ, and which has been made, with every new version, more intelligible to the mind of the people in the West. But the moment a soul dives deeper into these scriptures it begins to realize the one voice within all these outer forms, and that it is the same voice that has adopted these different forms to answer the need of every age.
What the prophet says is much less than what he really hears, and the sense of what he says is much deeper than what his outer words mean. For the task of the prophet is a most difficult one; it is trying to present to the world the whole ocean in a bottle. No one has ever been able to do it; yet they have all tried, for that has been their destiny. People have taken these bottles when given to them, and have said, ‘See here is the ocean; I have the ocean in my pocket!’ But through what the prophets have taught in the scriptures they have only tried to point out the way. They have not pictured the goal, for no one can put the goal into a picture. The goal is above all form and beyond the power of words to explain.
Those who have benefited by the life and message of the divine message-bearers are not necessarily the followers of their message, but rather the imitators of their life; for they have not only followed the reaching, but also the reacher, who is the living example of his reaching. All the ancient traditions of religious evolution tell us how those around the prophets have benefited by this imitation, rather than by following the strict laws and by arguing about the differences between the laws. There is no scripture in which contradiction does not exist. It is the contradiction, which makes the music of the message. The message would be rigid, like pebbles, if there were no contradiction. Even pebbles are not all alike. How can all words mean the same? The message is nothing but an answer to every question, every need, every demand of the individual and collective life.
Rumi has tried to explain in the Masnavi, from beginning to end, the nature and character of the heart of the prophet, and by this he has given the key to the door, which opens onto the prophetic path. Therefore in reading any scripture we must remember first that it is not the words we read which are so important, but what is hidden behind them. To the ordinary mind, which only sees the surface, the words of the scriptures are nothing but simple phrases, and sometimes the ideas appear simple, even childish. But the one who tries to discover what is behind them, will find out in time that there is a vast field of thought hidden behind every word that has come from the lips to the prophets. Verily the words of the prophets are like seals upon the secret of God.