You have been invited again to address a college class, but this time they are enrolled in a course on comparative religion. ou have chosen the topic of the God-Ideal. Your talk should include: an explaination of the God-ideal teachings, its purpose and development in the life of the individual and humanity, how this teaching helps one to see the essential unity behind the various religions.
Unity of Religious Ideals
Chapters: Seeking for the Ideal
All Chapters under “The God-Ideal”
The Sufi’s Conceptions ofGod
Seeking for the Ideal
Religion is a need of the human soul. In all periods and at every stage of the evolution of humanity there has been a religion followed by the world. At whatever stage of evolution, and in whatever period, the need for religion has been felt. And the reason is, that the soul of man has five deep desires, and these desires are answered by religion.
The first desire is the seeking for the ideal. There comes a time when man seeks for a more complete justice than he finds among men, and when he seeks for someone on whom he can rely more surely than he can on his friends in the world. There comes a time when one feels a desire to open his heart to a Being who is above human beings and who can understand his heart. Man naturally desires to meet someone who is greater than he. And when he seeks his ideal in the world of mortality, since the human soul cannot come up to his ideal he is naturally inclined to turn towards Someone who is higher than man. Man wants to feel that there is Someone who comes to his aid, Someone who is near him in his loneliness. He feels the need of asking forgiveness of Someone who is above human littleness, and of seeking refuge under Someone stronger than he. And to all these natural human tendencies there is an answer, and the answer is given by religion, and the answer is God.
Every living being on earth loves life above all else. The smallest insect, whose life lasts only an instant, tries to escape from any danger in order to live a moment longer. And the desire to live is most awakened in man. As intelligence wakens in man, he begins to wonder whether life is merely transitory, and if, after this life, all is ended. The thought that, "After my short life the world will continue; it will live"--this thought, for a man, is more terrible than death. And if life had not an intoxicating effect, this thought would kill many people.
The man who thinks that after this life there is nothing more, cannot dwell very long on that thought. Dwelling on this thought and contemplating upon it is like what a man feels who is standing on a great height and looks down--it terrifies him. The belief that life will continue after we have gone through death is a most comforting idea for every soul. The man who has not received the reward of his efforts, of his goodness; who has not, in his life, met with an answer to the sense of justice in him; who has not found in life a complete satisfaction; the man who has not been able to attain his desire in life, his hope is in what will come after, and this religion promises him.
Man has a desire for exaltation, the exaltation that is afforded him by cleanliness of body and purity of mind. Man longs to feel exalted both by the power of words and by his surroundings. And man strives for exaltation by thought, by action, and by feeling. The nature of life in the world is such that it constantly drags man to the earth. His senses continually draw him towards the earth: the crudeness of human nature, which jars continually, draws man towards the earth, bearing constantly the heavy burden of human responsibilities, and realizing in the end that these responsibilities are not of great importance. And the only change one can bring about to rid oneself of material responsibilities, is by prayer, either by oneself or joining with others in religious rites and ceremonies that afford man the means of exaltation in answer to his desire.
Man, with the maturity of his soul, desires to probe the depths of life. He desires to discover the power latent within him, he longs to know the source and goal of his life, he yearns to understand the aim and meaning of life, he wishes to understand the inner significance of things, and he wants to uncover all that is covered by form and name: he seeks for insight into cause and effect, he wants to touch the mystery of Time and Space, and he wishes to find the missing link between God and man--where man ends, where God begins. And this desire also finds its fulfillment in the contact with the spirit that religion gives.
It is a most natural desire of the human soul to seek for happiness and comfort. Man desires principles to guide his life, and he wishes for a moral standard to regulate the life of the community. He wishes for a balance of activity and repose; he desires union with the one whom he loves; he wishes for security of all that belongs to him, a settled reciprocity, a fixed give-and-take, and all things which bring about happiness and peace at home and in the nation.
Today, in the world, many people think that one can do without religion, and that they themselves have outgrown religion by reason of their evolution. Many have no religious belief. And therefore the world has never been in a more chaotic condition. No doubt one finds in tradition and in history that in the name of religion the selfishness and ignorance of mankind has played a great part. Therefore man, revolting against this state of things, has forsaken religion, and has forgotten that spirit which, in the name of religion, has also played its part in the world.
And now, in the absence of the influence of religion, the spirit which in the name of religion played a part in history has continued to play its part under the name of modernism. In spite of the separation that man tries to make between himself and others, he has always felt in himself a lack, at home and in his country. And this can be seen, today, among the materialists, who would not for one moment allow themselves to have a religious belief, but yet they are not satisfied. And the reason is that they lack a very great and very important thing, a thing that they cannot attain because they have built a wall before themselves.
There is a desire in every person, be he happy or unhappy. That desire is to live; even if not on the earth, in the hereafter. And the one who looks at it with pessimism and says, "I do not know if there is a hereafter," he also would like to be convinced that there is a hereafter. If that person disputes with you against the possibility of the hereafter, it is only to establish in his mind a conviction that there is a hereafter. He will not admit it, for he thinks it is intelligence to deny it. But he is not willing to die: he is not willing to deny that there is a continual life.
The mission of devotion, of religion, of spirituality, therefore, has been to bring that conviction to man which outer reasoning denies, but belief and faith alone can give. Is there one person in this world who would like that his existence should cease for good? Not one person. But every person seemingly or unseemingly is in the pursuit of finding out, if he can, some thread, some link, in order to be sure that there is a life in the hereafter. It is not true that there is no proof of the hereafter; only, those who want a proof, they look for that proof in a wrong direction. How can a proof of immortality be found in mortal existence? The proof of immortality is immortality itself. As life has no experience, it has no proof. If there is a proof, it is life itself. It is just like wakening from unconsciousness and coming to consciousness; so it is coming to immortality from the limited conception of mortality. Has not every religion tried in its own way, by giving some means or the other, to bring man to realize that there is a life in the hereafter?
It is the present age which objects to believing something which can only be understood in its culmination; and that way it refuses to believe it. Belief, when it is developed, is faith. And it is in that faith that you will find a seal; by opening it, there is a revelation of the continuity of life. No one but one's own self can convince one of the life in the hereafter; but one can give oneself a belief to begin with: the conviction will come by itself. Many have taken wrong methods in order to convince man of the hereafter. And by trying to play with phenomena they have, instead of giving a new belief, taken away the belief of the intelligent and built a wrong belief in the simple ones.
The work of the Sufi Message, therefore, is to use all different
methods, devotional, religious, spiritual, which will suit the particular grade
of a person's evolution, in order to prepare his heart for that conviction
which is called the life immortal.
THE GOD IDEAL
God is Love
God and the God-Ideal may be explained as the sun and the light. As there are times when the sun becomes covered by clouds, so there are times when the God-Ideal becomes covered by materialism. But if the cloud for a moment covers the sun, that does not mean that the sun is lost to you; and so, if in the reign of materialism the God-Ideal seems to have disappeared, yet God is there just the same. The condition of the world is like the ever-rising and falling waves. Sometimes it seems to rise and sometimes to fall, but with every rising and falling wave the sea is the same; and so, with all its changes, life is the same.
We find that during the past few years all over the world there has come a phase when the God-Ideal seems entirely forgotten. It does not mean that churches have disappeared, it does not mean that God does not exist, but that a light that once was there has been covered, has ceased to light us. But at the same time, as there is night after the day, so these changes of condition come in life: light and darkness.
In the age of science on the one side and materialism on the other and commercialism on the top, man seems to have blinded himself in acquiring wealth and power, and sees nothing else. It is not that there is not the search for light (it is the nature of every soul to search for light), but the great question is, how can the light come when nation is against nation, race against race, the followers of one religion against the followers of another; how can there be Peace and how can there come Light? The sign of the day is that all things are clear, and the sign of the night is that nothing can be found or seen; there are clouds. The most dreadful nightmare the world has ever seen has just passed away; and, although that wave, that nightmare, seems to have gone, its effect is still here, and the effect that is left is worse than the cause, for prejudice is worse than bloodshed. When man thirsts for the blood of his fellow man, how can we say that there is light? If a man can eat joyfully at his table when his neighbor is dying of hunger, where is the light? That is the condition of humanity today.
And what is the cause? It is because the Light, the God-Ideal, is not there. I was once amused by a very simple answer from a maid when someone came to the door and knocked, and the maid was not free to go at once, but took her time; when at last she came, the man was very angry, and said: "Why did you not open the door quickly?" I asked the maid: "What do you think was the reason for the person's being angry?" And she said, with her innocent expression, "Because there is no God with him."
The word of Christ is that God is Love; and if God is Love, then we, every one of us, can prove God in us by expressing God in our life. Yes, according to the external customs of the different religions, one goes to Church, one to the Mosque, one to the Synagogue, and one to the Temple of Buddha; but the inner Church is neither in the Mosque nor in the Synagogue, but in the heart of man, where God abides and which is the habitation of Christ. With this divine element lighted in man's heart he will go to the House of Prayer, and then his prayer will be heard.
There is a well-known story in India of a girl crossing a place where a Muslim was performing his prayers; and the law is that no one should cross where a person is praying. When the girl returned, the man said to her: "How insolent! Do you know what you have done?" "What did I do?" said the girl. And the man said that no one was allowed to cross. "I did not mean any harm," said the girl, "but tell me, what do you mean by praying?" "For me, prayer is thinking of God," said the man. "Oh!" she said, "but I was going to see my young man, and I was thinking of him and I did not see you; and if you were thinking of God, how did you see me?"
The idea, therefore, is that prayer becomes living if it is offered from a living heart; from a dead heart, prayer has no meaning, and is dead. There is a story of an Arab that he was running to the mosque where the Prayer of God was being offered, but before he could arrive the prayers were finished. On his way he met a man coming from the mosque, and asked him: "Are the prayers finished?" The man replied that they were finished, and the other sighed deeply and said, "Alas!" Then the man asked: "Will you give me the virtue of your sigh in exchange for the virtue of my prayers?" And the other agreed. Next day the simple man saw the Prophet in a dream, who told him that he had made a bad bargain, for that one sigh was worth all the prayers of a lifetime, for it was from the heart.
There are different human beings in different stages of evolution, and it is natural that every human being, according to his particular stage of evolution, imagines God before him when he prays. Is it a question for anyone else to judge the one who prays, and to say, "God is not this or that"? Persons who force their beliefs on others often put them against that belief, even if it were the true belief. It requires a great deal of tact, thought, and consideration to explain the belief, or to correct the belief, of another. In the first place, it is insolent on the part of man to wish to explain God, although man today would like, not only to explain, but even to examine whether the spirit of God exists.
The other day I was much amused to hear that there are people who not only want to take photographs of the spirits, but even to weigh the soul! It was a good thing in ancient times when the state had respect for the God-Ideal and religion, and taught that respect to humanity. Today man wishes to use what he calls "freedom" in religion, even in the foundation of all religions, the God-Ideal! But it must be remembered that it is not the path of freedom that leads to the goal of freedom, but the path of the God-Ideal that leads to the goal of Truth.
Man has a respect for mother or father, husband or wife, or for superiors, but they have limited personalities; where then shall he give most respect? Only to one being--to God. Man can love another human being, but by the very fact of his loving another human being he has no scope; to express all the love that is there, he must love the unlimited God. One admires all that is beautiful, in color, tone, or form; but all that is beautiful has its limitations; when one rises above limitations, there is that perfection which is God alone.
Many people say, "Yes, the perfection of all things, of love, harmony, and beauty, is God; but where is the personality of God?" It is this difficulty which some feel when at a loss to find something to adore or worship different from all they see. In all ages men have, perhaps, worshiped idols, or the sun, or fire, or some other form as God, because they were not able to see farther than their eyes could see. Of course, it is easy to criticize anyone or to look at anyone with contempt, but really that shows that every soul has a desire for someone to admire, to adore, and to worship.
Although there can be no trace of the personality of God to be found on the surface, yet one can see that there is a source from which all personality comes, and a goal to which all must return. And if there is one source, what a great Personality that one Source must be! It cannot be learnt by great intellect, or not even by the study of metaphysics or comparative religion, but only understood by a pure and innocent heart full of love.
The great personalities who have descended on earth from time to time to awaken in man that love which is his divine inheritance found an echo in innocent souls rather than in great intellects. Man often confuses wisdom with cleverness and cleverness with wisdom. But these two are different; man can be wise and can be clever, and man can be clever and not wise; and by cleverness a person will strive and strive, and will not reach God. It is a stream--the stream of love--which leads towards God.
Two Points of View
There are two points of view from which one sees the God-Ideal. One is the point of view of the imaginative, and the other the point of view of the God-conscious. The former is the point of view of the minor soul, and the latter is that of the soul which is major. For the one thinks that there is a God, and the other sees God. The believer who adorns his God with all that the imagination can supply, sees God as all beauty, as all goodness, and as the most merciful and compassionate God, and recognizes Him as the Almighty, the Supreme Being. He sees in God the true Judge, and he expects one day to receive justice from Him.
He knows that in God he will find at last the perfect love on which he can rely entirely. He sees in God the Friend to Whom he can turn in sorrow and in joy. He calls Him his Father and his Lord, his Father and Mother; and all that is good and beautiful he recognizes as coming from God. Really speaking, he makes an intelligible form of God, that being the only condition by which he can see God. And the believer who has imagined God as high as his imagination will allow him to, he adores Him, asks His forgiveness, looks for His help, and hopes one day to attain to Him, and he feels that there is Someone nearer to him than anyone else in life, Whose mercy is always with him.
It is this point of view that is called monotheism--believing in the personality of God, a Personality which man makes to the best of his ability. Therefore the God of the monotheist is within him, made by his mind. But it is the form of God that he makes. The spirit is always the same, hidden behind the form that man has made because he needs a form. No doubt at this stage the God of the believer is the form made by Him, the form of a human being. God is behind that form, and He answers His worshiper through that form. Someone once said to a Brahman, "O ignorant man, you have worshiped this idol for years. Do you think that it can ever answer you?" "Yes," said the Brahmin, "even from this idol of stone the answer will come if the faith is real. But if you have not real faith, you will have no answer even from the God in Heaven." Man, who knows and sees all things by his senses and his feelings, and who tries to picture everything by his imagination--things that he has neither seen nor known, such as spirits, angels, fairies--it is natural that he should make God intelligible to himself by means of his imagination.
The other point of view, which I have called the major point of view, is perhaps less interesting to some and more interesting to others; for this is the true point of view. When a person begins to see all goodness as being the goodness of God, all the beauty that surrounds him as the divine beauty, he no doubt begins to worship a visible God, and no doubt, as his heart constantly loves and admires the divine beauty in all that he sees, he begins to see in all that is visible one single vision; all becomes for him a single vision--the vision of the Beauty of God. His love for beauty increases his capacity to such a degree that great virtues, such as tolerance and forgiveness, spring naturally from his heart.
Even things that mostly people look upon with contempt, he views with tolerance. The brotherhood of humanity he does not need to learn, for he does not see humanity, he sees only God. And as this vision develops, it becomes a divine vision that occupies every moment of his life. In nature he sees God, and in man he sees His image, and in art and poetry he sees the dance of God. The waves of the sea bring him the message from above, and the swaying of the branches in the breeze seems to him a prayer. For him there is a constant contact with his God. He knows neither horror nor terror, nor any fear. Birth and death are to him only little changes in life. Life is for him a moving picture which he loves and admires, and yet he is free from all. He is one among all the world. He himself is happy, and he makes others happy. This point of view is the pantheistic point of view.
In reality, these two points of view are the natural consequences of human evolution, and really one cannot separate them. No one reaches old age without having passed through youth, and no one attains to the pantheistic point of view without having held the monotheistic. And if anyone arrives at the pantheistic point of view at once, without holding the monotheistic, it would be like a person becoming a man without having been a child, which is void of beauty.
There are, certainly, two possibilities of error. One is that made by the monotheist when he continues to adore the God he has made, without allowing himself to see the point of view of the pantheist. In order to love God, he limits his own God, which does not mean that God is really limited, but He is limited for that person. The ways of childhood are charming in a child, but a grown-up person with the characteristics of a child is absurd. When man begins his belief in God by monotheism, it is the best way, but when he ends his life without having made any progress, he has lost in his life the greatest opportunity. The man who makes this mistake separates man from God, who, in reality, cannot be divided. For God and man are as the two ends of one line. When a believer in God conceives of God as a separate entity and man a being separate from Him, he makes himself an exile--an exile from the Kingdom of God. He holds fast the form of God created by himself, and he does not reach the Spirit of God. However good and virtuous he has been in life, however religious in his actions, he has not fulfilled the purpose of his life.
A mistake is made by the pantheist when he holds the idea that all which he can conceive of and all that answers to his five senses, he believes alone exists. For by this mistake he holds to the form of God and loses His Spirit. All that we can comprehend in man is not all there is to be comprehended. There is something which is beyond all our comprehension. And if the depths of man are too far to be touched by man, how can he hope to touch the depths of God? All that is visible is in reality one body, a body that may be called the Body of God; but behind, there is the Spirit of God. What is behind this Body is the Source and Goal of all beings. And, of course, the part which is the spirit is the most important part. The pantheist who recognizes the divinity only of that which is comprehensible to him, although pantheism may be to him a great ideal, is yet one groping in the dark. All that is subject to change, all that is not constant, all that passes through birth and death, may also some day be destroyed. The man who limits the Divine Being to something that is subject to destruction, the man who cannot feel the trace of the Divine Being in something that is beyond his comprehension, that man is astray. True pantheism is: God is all, and all is God, the known and the unknown; all that exists within and without; God is all that exists, and nothing exists save He.
The beginning of monotheism may be called deism, a belief in Someone higher than oneself. And for the souls who have reached this stage of evolution, for these souls many lessons have been given by the Sages. The Sages have taught them to adore the sun, fire, water, certain trees, and many idols. And no doubt, behind all these teachings there is always the wisdom of the Masters. The lessons given to certain peoples were not for others, as what is suitable for one period is not suitable for another. And for teaching pantheism there were also elementary lessons, such as the idea of many gods, as among the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hindus and the old Egyptians. All these peoples believed in many gods, and this lesson was given to them to see in different things the same Spirit of God. Every god had as his characteristics certain human traits, and by this means man was taught to become capable of recognizing God in his fellow man, to become tolerant and forgiving; also he was led to concentrate and meditate on certain human characteristics, considering them as something divine. Consideration and respect for humanity was taught by meditation on certain traits.
Man without knowledge of these two different points of view, and strongly impressed by materialistic ideas, often looks upon God as a force or an energy, but he denies forcibly that God can have a personality. No doubt it would be a great mistake to call God a personality, but it is a still greater mistake when man denies the Personality of God. And if you ask this person: "What is your source? What is your goal? Are you yourself a personality? Is it possible that you should be a personality yourself when the Goal and the Source from which you come is not a Personality?", he has no answer.
It is the seed, which is the origin of the flower and the fruit, that is also the result of the flower and the fruit. Therefore man is the miniature of the Personality of God; God is the seed from which comes the personality. Man, in the flowering of his personality, expresses the Personality of God. It is a subject that cannot be discussed because one is able to distinguish all things by comparison, and, because God is the Only Being, He cannot be compared, and even to use the word personality in speaking of God would be a mistake. There cannot be a better way of looking at the God-Ideal than to consider Him as being perfection in the widest and fullest meaning of the word.
The Kingship of God
The God-Ideal has been regarded by different men differently. Some have idealized God as the King of Earth and Heaven, some have a conception of God as a Person, others think of God as an abstraction; some believe in God, others do not, some raise the ideal of the Deity to the highest heaven, others bring it down to the lowest depth of earth; some picture God in Paradise, others make an idol and worship it. There are many ideas and many beliefs, different names, such as pantheism, idolatry, belief in a formless God, or belief in many gods and goddesses, but all are striving after something in one way or another. If I were asked how many conceptions there are of God, I would say, "As many as there are souls"; for all, whether wise or foolish, have some conception of God.
Everyone knows God in some way and has his own picture of Him, either as a Man, as the Absolute, as Goodness, as Something beautiful or illuminating; everyone has some conception; and for the one who does not believe in God, even for him the Name exists. Very often the unbeliever is an unbeliever because of his own vanity, though this is not always so. He says that only simple people believe in God; he sees that there are millions of simple souls who worship God, and yet it does not raise them higher, and so he sees no virtue in the worship of God. Others believe in the God-Ideal so long as they are happy, but when their condition changes, when sorrow and trouble come, they begin to doubt whether there really is a God.
I have often met people who had had a great belief in God, but having lost a dear one, and having vainly prayed and implored God that they might keep him, they had lost their belief. I once met almost unhappy mother who had given up her belief in God after the death of her only child. It grieved me to think that a soul so religious, tender, and fine, by that one great sorrow in life, had given up her faith; I told her that while I sympathized with her most deeply, at the same time, in giving up her faith she had brought to herself a much greater loss--a loss for which nothing could make up.
In the Bible we read, and in the other scriptures, that we should glorify the Name of God. There is a question: Is God raised higher by man's worshiping Him; or is He made greater by man's belief in Him? The answer is that God is independent of all that man can do for Him. If man worships God, believes in Him, and glorifies Him, it is for man's own good; for belief in God serves the greatest and only purpose in life, for the fulfillment of which man was born, and that purpose is the attainment of that perfection which may be called divine.
Why must God be called a King? Why not any other name? The answer is that it is impossible for words to explain or define God, but all that man can do is to use the best word for the Greatest Being, the Supreme Being; and he uses this word because language is poor, and he can find no other or better one.
Again comes the question of the metaphysician or the philosopher, when he reads: all is God and God is all. He says: "If God is goodness, what, then, is the opposite of goodness? Is it outside God? If so, God is limited. Then something else exists as well as God. Are there two powers, rival powers? What is the power called evil ?" It is true that God is all, but you would not call a man's shadow the man. What is evil, then? It is only a shadow.
What is illness? It is another illusion. In reality, there is only life, real existence; illness is lack of life; it is a shadow, an illusion. The Being of God is recognized by His attributes. Therefore, man speaks of God as the just God; he sees all power, all goodness, in God; but when the situation is changed, when he sees God as injustice, he begins to think that God is powerless, and to judge the action of God. But one must look at this from a different point of view. Human beings are limited, imperfect, and from our own imperfect standpoint we try to judge the Perfect Being, or His perfect action.
In order to judge, our vision must become as wide as the universe; then we might have a little glimpse of the Justice which is perfect in itself. But when we try to judge every action by limiting God and by attaching the responsibility of every action to God, we confuse our faith, and by our own fault we begin to disbelieve. The error is in man's nature; from childhood we think all we do and say is just and fair, and so when man thinks of God he has his own conception, and by that he tries to judge God and His justice; if he is forgiving, he tries to overlook God's apparent injustice, and to find goodness in God and to see the limitation of man. This is better, but in the end man will realize that every movement is controlled and directed from One Source, and that Source is the Perfection of Love, Justice, and Wisdom, a Source where nothing lacks. But it is so difficult for man to have a perfect conception of the God-Ideal, and he cannot begin in a first lesson to conceive of God as perfect. So the wise must be tolerant of all the forms in which souls picture their God.
There is a story told of Moses. One day he was passing through a farm, and he saw a peasant boy sitting quietly and speaking to himself, saying: "O God, I love You so; if I saw You here in these fields I would bring You soft bedding and delicious dishes to eat, I would take care that no wild animals could come near You. You are so dear to me, and I so long to see You; if You only knew how I love You I am sure You would appear to me." Moses heard, and said: "Young man, how can you dare to speak of God so? He is the Formless God, and no wild beast nor bird could injure Him who guards and protects all."
The young man bent his head sorrowfully and wept. Something was lost for him, and he felt most unhappy. And then revelation came to Moses as a Voice from within, which said: "Moses, what have you done? You have separated a sincere lover from Me. What does it matter what I am called or how I am spoken to? Am I not in all forms?" This story throws a great light, and teaches that it is only the ignorant who accuse another of a wrong conception of God.
This teaches us how gentle we ought to be with the faith of another; as long as he has the spark of the love of God, this spark should be slowly blown upon that the flame may rise; if not, that spark will be extinguished. How much the spiritual development of mankind in general depends upon a religious man! He can either spread the light, or diminish it by forcing his belief on others.
Everyone thinks the other person must believe in and worship his God. Everyone has his own conception of God, and this conception makes the steppingstone to the true Ideal of God. Then there are others who believe in God, but do not show their belief in any outward religious tendency. People often misunderstand them, and yet there is something very beautiful hidden in their heart, not understood, not known. There is a story told in the East of a man who used to avoid going to the house of prayer, who showed no outward sign, so that his wife often wondered if he had any belief in God; she thought a great deal about this, and was very anxious about it.
One day she said to her husband: "I am very happy today." The man was surprised, and asked what made her happy, and she said: "I was under a false impression, but now that I have found out the truth, I am glad." He asked: "What has made you glad?" And she replied: "I heard you saying the Name of God in your sleep." He said: "I am very sorry." It was too precious, too great for him to speak of, and he felt it was a great blow, after having hidden this secret in the deepest part of his being because it was too sacred to speak of. He could not bear it, and he died. We cannot say from the outward appearance who believes and who does not believe. One person may be pious and orthodox and it may mean nothing; another may have a profound love for the Deity, and a great knowledge of Him, and no one may know it.
What benefit does man receive from believing in the Kingship of God? How does he derive real help from his belief?. He must begin by realizing the nobility of human nature. Not that one must expect everything to be good and beautiful, and, if one's expectation is not realized, then there is no hope of progress; for man is limited, his goodness is limited. No one has ever proved to be your ideal; you may make an ideal of your imagination, and, whenever you see goodness to be lacking, you may give it from your own heart and so complete the nobility of human nature. This is done by patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness.
The lover of goodness loves every little sign of goodness. He overlooks the faults and fills up the gaps by pouring out love and filling up that which is lacking. This is real nobility of soul. Religion, prayer, worship, are all intended to ennoble the soul, not to make it narrow, sectarian, bigoted. One cannot arrive at true nobility of spirit if one is not prepared to forgive imperfect human nature. For all, worthy or unworthy, require forgiveness, and only in this way can one rise above the lack of harmony and beauty, until at last one arrives at the stage when one reflects what one has collected.
All the riches of love, kindness, tolerance, and good manners a man then reflects, and he throws the light onto the other person and brings out those virtues in that other, just as watering a plant makes the leaves and buds open and the flowers blossom. This brings one nearer to the Perfection of God, in Whom alone one sees all that is perfect, all that is divine. As it is said in the Bible: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
Belief in God
It is the spirit of all souls which is personified in all ages as God. There are periods when this spirit is materialized in the faith of humanity and worshiped as God, the Sovereign and the Lord of both worlds, as Judge, Sustainer, and Forgiver; but there are periods when this realization has become less in humanity, when mankind has become absorbed in the life of the world more than in the spiritual ideal. Therefore the belief in God comes to humanity like tides in the sea. Every now and then it appears on the surface, mostly with a Divine Message given as an answer to the cry of humanity at a certain period. So, in the life of individuals, at times the belief in God comes as tides in the sea, with an impulse to worship, to serve God, to search for God, to love God, and to long for God-communication. The more the material life of the world is before one's eyes, the more the spiritual impulse is closed. The spiritual impulse therefore rises especially at times of sorrow and of disappointment through life.
The belief in God is natural, but in life both art and nature are necessary. So God, Who exists independent of our making Him, must be made by us for our own comprehension. To make God intelligible, first man must make his own God. It is on this principle that the idea of many gods and the custom of idol-worship was based in the ancient religions of the world. God cannot be two.
The God of each is the God of all, but in order to comprehend that God we each have to make our own God. Some of us seek for justice; we can seek for God, Who is just. Some of us look for beauty; we must find it in the God of beauty. Some of us seek for love; we must find it in the God of mercy and compassion. Some of us wish for strength and power; we must find it in God Almighty. The seeking of every soul in this world is different, distinct, and peculiar to himself, and he can best attain to it by finding the object of his search in God.
The moment one arrives at this belief, no question need he ask of his fellow man, for the answer to every question that springs from his mind he finds in his own heart. The dwelling place of God, which is called heaven, is then found in his own heart. The Friend on Whom one can constantly depend, Someone Whom one can always trust; Someone Whose sympathy and love is secure; Someone Who will never fail, whatever happens; Someone Who is strong enough to help; Someone Who is sufficiently wise to guide in life, he will find in his own heart.
Those who, out of their materialistic view, cannot believe in the God-Ideal, lose a great deal in their lives. That ideal which is the highest and best ideal, the only ideal worth loving, worth worshiping, worth longing for, worth the sacrifice of all one has, and worth depending upon during the daylight and through the darkness of night, is God; and he who has God in his life, has all he needs; he who has not God, he, having all things of this mortal world, is lonely; he is in the wilderness even if he be in the midst of the crowd. The journey of the Sufi, therefore, is to God. It is Divine Knowledge which he seeks; it is the realization of God-consciousness which is his goal.
The Existence God
The existence of God is a question which arises in every mind, whether in the mind of the believer in God or in the mind of the unbeliever. There are moments when the greatest believer in God questions His existence--whether there really is a God? He finds it, at the second thought, sacrilegious to have a notion such as this, and he tries to get rid of it. But often the question rises in the heart of the unbeliever if it is really true; if there is such a thing as God? The idea of God is inborn in man. The God-Ideal is the flower of the human race; and this flower blooms in the realization of God.
As everything in the objective world has its tendency to rise upwards, so the tendency of the soul can be seen in human aspiration, which always soars upwards, whatever be the sphere of man's consciousness. The man who is only conscious of the material life, his aspirations reach as far as they can reach in material gains, yet he proceeds higher and higher, and remains discontented with all that he achieves through life, owing to the immensity of life in every phase. This craving for the attainment of what is unattainable, gives the soul a longing to reach life's utmost heights. It is the nature of the soul to try and discover what is behind the veil; it is the soul's constant longing to climb heights which are beyond his power; it is the desire of the soul to see something that it has never seen; it is the constant longing of the soul to know something it has never known. But the most wonderful thing about it is that the soul already knows there is something behind this veil, the veil of perplexity; that there is something to be sought for in the highest spheres of life; that there is some beauty to be seen; that there is Someone to be known who is knowable. This desire, this longing, is not acquired; this desire is a dim knowledge of the soul which it has in itself.
Therefore disbelief in the God-Ideal is nothing but a condition which is brought about by the vapors arising from the material life of illusion, and covering as clouds the light of the soul, which is its life. It is therefore that the unbeliever is not satisfied with his unbelief. Yes, sometimes his vanity is fed by it, to think that he is wise in not believing in Someone Whose existence is believed in by numberless blind beings. So he begins to think: "After all, to believe in God is not difficult; any simpleton can believe in the God-Ideal." He takes, therefore, the opposite direction of refusing to believe. He is honest, and yet he is like someone who stands before a wall which hinders his path to progress.
If this world offered to one person all it possesses, even then the soul would not be satisfied because its satisfaction is in its higher aspiration, and it is this higher aspiration which leads to God. The question: "Has man an aspiration because it is his nature, but in the end of the journey he may perhaps not find anything?" may be answered: "There is no question which has no answer, and there is no desire the object of which is lacking." There is appetite, and there is food; there is thirst, and there is water; there is sight, and there is something to be seen. So there is aspiration, and there is God. Man knows not what is not. There is no such thing which one knows and which does not exist. For one cannot know what does not exist; something must exist first to enable one to know it.
But there is a question: "Everyone does not know God; does he not then only believe in some idea?" The answer is: "What is the idea? The idea is that out of which all is born. Science, art, music, poetry, religion and nationality, all is born of the idea. If the idea is the source from which all comes, then why is the idea something insignificant, and why is God, Who is the Source and Goal of all, not found in the idea?"
The seeking for God is a natural outcome of the maturity of the soul. There is a time in life when a passion is awakened in the soul which gives the soul a longing for the unattainable, and if the soul does not take that direction, then it certainly misses something in life for which is its innate longing and in which lies its ultimate satisfaction.
Conceptions of God
There are different conceptions of God existing in various periods and known to different people. The people in all ages, seeking for the Deity, have pictured Him in some form or other. It is natural with man. If he is told about someone he has never seen or known, he makes a conception of that person, and he holds his conception as his knowledge of that person until he sees him. There are some who make a conception in their mind of a person whom they have not seen almost as real as the person. The human heart is an accommodation which conceives the idea of God and pictures Him according to man's own mentality.
The Buddha of China has Chinese features, and that of Japan has the eyes of Japan; the Buddha of India has the Indian likeness. Man cannot conceive of an angel being any different from a human being, except that he attaches two wings to the angel in order to make it a little different. If the angel were not pictured as man, it would not be an attraction to a human being; therefore, it is natural that in every period people have conceived of the Personality of God as a human personality. No better conception could they have given, for there is nothing in the world which is a more finished personality than the human personality.
People have called God He, recognizing the might and power of the Deity. People have called God She, recognizing in the Deity the Mother-principle and beauty. It is the differences of conception from which have come the many gods and goddesses. It is true, too, that as many conceptions there are, so many gods are there. And yet many gods mean many conceptions of the One Only God. By ignorance of this truth many have fought over their different gods; and yet the wise man in every period of the world has understood God to be the One and Only Being. For the ordinary mind, to feel the existence of someone in the idea is not sufficient. It is too vague. He wishes to feel the existence of someone with his own hands; then only he can acknowledge something to be existent.
The wise, therefore, have given different objects to such mentalities, and pointed them out to the people as gods. Some said: "See God in the sun"; and the person understood. He was not satisfied to think that God was in the idea; he was much more pleased to know now that God is seen by him, and God is incomparable even as the sun, and that God is not reachable. Some wise men have said: "He is in the fire." Some said, to a simple man who asked to see God: "Go in the forest and find out a certain tree, and that tree is God." The search for that tree gave something for that man to do, which was the first essential thing. And the patience with which he sought the tree also did something in his soul. The joy of finding a rare tree was also a pleasure. And in the end he found, for God is everywhere. Some have made images of different ideas, such as love, justice, knowledge and power, and called them different goddesses, molded them into different images, and have given them to man to worship. Some wise men have said the cow is sacred. Certainly it is sacred for a farmer whose farming depends upon the cow. His life's sustenance comes, in every form, from the cow; it is sacred.
The wise have pointed out different objects to man which will attract man's attention and become objects of concentration for him to still his mind; for in the mind which is still, God manifests. Then, again, the wise have presented the God-Ideal to the people in the form of symbols. To simple beings a symbol was God; and to awakened minds the same symbol of God was a revealing factor of the secret of the Deity. If one could only see how marvelously, in the diversity of the conception of the Divine Ideal, wisdom has played its part, guiding the souls of all grades of evolution towards the same goal, which in the end becomes spiritual attainment!
The conception of many gods has come from two sources. One was the idea of the wise to make every kind of power and attribute in a form of deity, and to call it a certain god. It was done in order to give the ordinary mind the most needed thought, that god is in everything and god is all power. Many afterwards misunderstood the idea, and the wisdom behind it became obscured, therefore some wise men had to fight against the ideas of the other wise men. Yet they did not fight with the idea; they fought with the misconception of it. But now, at the present time, when there exists no such idea in Europe of many gods, many have lost their faith after the recent war, saying: "If god is all goodness, all justice, all power, why has such a dreadful thing as war been allowed to take place?" If the same people were accustomed to see, among their many gods, as the Hindus have worshiped for generations, Kali, the goddess of war, it would not have been a new thing for them to know that, if all is from god, not only peace, but even war is from God.
The mystics of all ages have therefore given God many names. The Sufi schools of esotericism have possessed their different names of God, with their nature and secret, and have used them in different meditations along the path of spiritual attainment. Therefore the Sufis have not many gods, but many Names of god, each expressive of a certain attribute. Suppose these Names which the Sufis have used, were not the Names of God--if they had only held in thought words such as mercy, compassion, patience--it would have been a merit, not a person. Merit is not creative, and merit is only something which is possessed. Therefore the attribute is not important; the important one is the possessor of the attribute. Therefore, instead of thinking of success, the Sufi calls upon the God of success. For him the God of success is not a different God; there is only one God, but only by calling upon that Name of God which is expressive of success, he attaches his soul to that perfect Spirit of success.
The other source whence the idea of many gods has come, is the deep thinkers and philosophers, who have seen God in every soul, and every soul making a God of its own, according to its stage of evolution. Therefore there is a saying among the Hindus: "There are as many gods as there are strains of music." In other words, there are numerous imaginations and numberless gods. If ever this idea was taught to the people, it was to break that ignorance of some people who made God confined to heaven, and kept the earth free from His divine Presence: they waited for death to come, when they might be taken into the Presence of God, Who was sitting on the throne of justice in the hereafter. By it they tried to show to the people that God is in every soul, and so, as many souls, so many gods: some advanced, some not advanced, some further advanced, and yet all gods. If there is a struggle, it is a conflict between gods; if there is harmony, it is a friendship between gods. By these terms they wished to make man realize the most essential truth that God is all. No doubt those who misunderstand will always misunderstand.
This idea brought about corruption also, and made people, who regard many gods, interested in the legends of the past which narrated the wars and battles that took place among gods. Therefore the wise had again to come to their rescue, and teach them again of the one God, that by this teaching they might again come to the realization of the oneness of life, which is best realized in the God-Ideal.
The Personality of God
Very often, many who are ready to accept the God-Ideal, question the personality of God. Some say: "If all is God, then God is not a person, for 'all' is not a person: 'all' is what is expressed by the word all." This question can be answered that, though the seed does not show the flower in it, yet the seed culminates in a flower, and therefore the flower has already existed in the seed. If one were to say that in the image of the seed the flower was made, it would not be wrong, for the only image of the seed is the flower. If God has no personality, how can we human beings have a personality, who come from Him, out of His own Being, and we who can express the divine in the perfection of our souls?
If the bubble is water, certainly the sea is water. How can the bubble be water and the sea not be water? Only the difference between the human personality and the Divine Personality, God's Personality, is that the human personality can be compared; God's Personality has no comparison. Human personality can be compared because of its opposite; God has no opposite, so His Personality cannot be compared. To call God all is like saying God is a number of objects, all of which exist somewhere together. The word all does not give that meaning which can explain the God-Ideal; the proper expression for God is The Only Being.
The God-Ideal is so enormous that man can never comprehend it fully, therefore the best method which the wise have adopted is to allow every man to make his own God. By this he only makes a conception which he is capable of making. He makes Him the King of the Heavens and of the earth; he makes Him Judge, greater than all judges; he makes Him Almighty, Who has all power; he makes Him the Possessor of all grace and glory; he makes Him the beloved God, merciful and compassionate; he recognizes in Him the providence, the support, the protection; and he recognizes in Him all perfection. This ideal becomes as a steppingstone to the higher knowledge of God. The man who has no imagination to make a God, and the one who is not open to the picture of God that the other man presents to him, he remains without one, for he finds no steppingstone to reach that knowledge which his soul longs for but his doubts deny.
Many would ask if it would not be deceiving oneself to make a God of one's imagination, Someone Who is not seen in the objective world. The answer is that our whole life is based and constructed upon imagination, and if there is one thing in this objective world which is lasting, it is imagination. The one incapable, who has no value for imagination, is void of art and poetry, of music, manners, and culture. He can very well be compared to a rock, which never troubles to imagine.
Man is not capable of picturing God as other than a person--a person with all the best qualities, the ideal person. This does not mean that all that is ugly and evil does not belong to the universe of God, or, in other words, is not in God Himself. But the water of the ocean is ever pure, in spite of all the things that may be thrown into it. The Pure One consumes all impurities, and turns them all into purity. Evil and ugliness are only in man's limited conception; in God's great Being these have no existence; therefore, he is not wrong who makes God, in his imagination, the God of all beauty, free from ugliness; the God of all the best qualities, free from all evil, for by that imagination he is drawn nearer and nearer every moment of his life to that Divine Ideal which is the seeking of his soul. And, once he has touched divine Perfection, in it he will find the fulfillment of his life.
The Realization of God
In the terms of the Sufis the Self of God is called Zat, and His qualities, His merits, are named Sifat. The Hindus call the former aspect of God Purusha and the latter Prakriti, which can be rendered in English by the words spirit and nature. Zat, the Spirit of God, is incomprehensible. The reason is that, That which comprehends Itself is Intelligence, God's real Being; so comprehension has nothing to comprehend in its own Being. No doubt, in our usual terms it is the comprehending faculty in us which we call comprehension; but in this it is not meant so, for intelligence is not necessarily intellect.
Merit is something which is comprehensible; it is something which is clear and distinct, so that it can be made intelligible. But intelligence is not intelligible except to its own self. Intelligence knows that I am; but it does not know what I am. Such is the Nature of God. Intelligence would not have known its own power and existence, if it had not known something besides itself. So God knows Himself by manifestation. Manifestation is the self of God, but a self which is limited, a self that makes Him know that He is perfect when He compares His own Being with this limited self which we call nature. Therefore the purpose of the whole Creation is the realization that God Himself gains by discovering His own Perfection through this manifestation.
Then the idea that has existed in Christianity is also a riddle to solve that we may find out the truth of life. It is the idea of the Trinity. What keeps the soul in perplexity is the threefold aspect of manifestation. As long as the soul remains in this puzzle, it cannot arrive at the knowledge of the One. These three aspects are: the Seer, Sight, and the Seen; the Knower, Knowledge, and the Known. Plainly explained, I would say: these are three aspects of life. One aspect is the person who sees; the other aspect is the sight, or the eyes, by the help of which he sees; and the third aspect is that which he sees.
One, therefore, cannot readily accept the idea that, "What I see is the same as myself"; nor can he believe for a moment that, "The medium, by which I see, is myself"; for the three above said aspects seem to be standing separate and looking at one another's face, as the first person, second person, and third person of Brahma. When this riddle is solved by knowing that the three are one, then the purpose of the God-Ideal is fulfilled. For the three veils which cover the One are lifted up. Then they remain no longer three; then there is One, the Only Being. As Hegel says, "If you believe in one God, you are right; if you believe in two Gods, that is true; but if you believe in three Gods, that is right also; for the nature of unity is realized by variety."
Creator, Sustainer, Judge, Forgiver
Why is God called the Creator ? Because the creation itself is the evidence of some wisdom working. No mechanical creation could result in such perfection as is Nature. All the machines of the scientists are built on the model of Nature's mechanism, and every inspiration that the artist has he receives from Nature. Nature is so perfect in itself that in reality it needs no scientific or artistic improvement upon it, except that, to satisfy the limited human fancies, man develops science and art. And yet it is still the creation of God expressed in art and science through man; as in man God is not absent, but more able in some ways to finish His creation, which necessitates His finishing it as man. No better evidence is needed for a sincere inquirer into the Creator-God. If he only concentrates his mind upon Nature, he certainly must sooner or later have an insight into the perfect wisdom which is hidden behind it. The soul that comes into the world is only a divine ray. The impressions it gets on its way while coming to the earth also are from God. No movement is possible without the command of God; therefore, in all creation, in its every aspect, in the end of search and examination God alone proves to be the only Creator.
The word Sustainer is attached to His Name. Jesus Christ said, "Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin; yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these." And Rumi explains it further in the Masnavi: "Even the spider is not neglected by God, but is supplied with its food." If the smallest germ and worm, insignificant as it is, had depended for its supply upon man, who cannot even always supply himself, how would the creation have gone on? It seems that the creatures who do not worry for their supply, to their mouth their food is conveyed. Man's struggle, it seems, for his supply is greater than that of all other living beings in the lower creation. But what makes it so? It is not God, it is man himself, who is selfish, and who is unfair to his brother, absorbed in his own interests in life.
In spite of all famines, the world still has sufficient supplies; but imagine the amount of food that has been sunk in the sea, and how many years the earth, in which man's food is prepared, was neglected by men busy killing one another! If the result of this causes hunger and greater strife, is God to be blamed? It is man who deserves all blame. Sa'adi very subtly explains human nature in regard to providence: it is the most beautiful expression: "'The Creator is always busy preparing for me the supply, but my anxiety for my supply is my natural illness." Life is such a phenomenon, if only we dive deep into it, that we find no question is without an answer. lt never is so that we need something and are not provided with it. The only difference is between what we think we need and what we really need. The supply is always greater than our need, therefore providence is always a phenomenon. Sometimes we look at it with smiles, at other times with tears. But it is something real and living; and more real it will prove to be if we look at it by climbing to the top of our reason.
God as Judge is spoken of by many prophets, and the man of reason and logic has tried to attribute justice to the law. But justice is not law; justice is above the law. Very often, to our limited view, things in the world appear unjust; and often it seems that there is man's law: what he wishes, he does, if he has the power to do it. But behind this illusive appearance there certainly is a strict justice and a real law. No sooner does the heart becoming living than this law manifests. One cannot but marvel at life and nature, to see how great is the justice of God: that it is, to give with the right hand and take with the left--all you give and all you take. No soul has to wait for days or weeks or years, or for death to come, for the law to manifest. Every day is a Judgment Day, and every hour is the hour of justice. A criminal will escape from the prison bars, but he cannot go from under the sky! There is the Judge within and without. When his eyes are closed he is being judged within; when they are open he is being judged without. We are always in a court of justice. If we do not realize it, it is because we are intoxicated by life, and we become like a drunken man in the court, who does not see the judge nor justice.
But what we can marvel most at in life, is to know that, in spite of His great Justice, God is the Forgiver. He forgives even more than He judges, for justice comes from His Intelligence, but forgiveness comes from His Divine Love. When His Divine Love rises as a wave, it washes away the sins of a whole life in a moment. For law has no power to stand before love; the stream of love sweeps it away. When before Christ the woman was brought who was accused by everyone of her crime, what arose from the heart of the Master? The law? No; it was love, in the form of mercy and compassion. Even the thought of the Love of God fills the heart with joy, and makes it lightened of its burden. And if, as the religious have always taught, once in a person's life he has asked whole-heartedly for forgiveness, in spite of his whole life's sins he will certainly be forgiven.
The Only King
God is called King off Heaven and of the earth, and of the seen and unseen beings, only because we have no better words than the words we use for all the things of this world. To call God King does not raise Him in any way higher than the position He has; it only helps us to make His power and glory more intelligible to our mind. And yet there are certain characters which are kingly characters; such characters may be seen in God in their perfection. It does not mean that every person has not that character. It only means that from a higher position a soul shows out that character more, perhaps, than in an ordinary capacity. That character is love hidden behind indifference. In Sufic terms this character is denoted by a Persian word, Binayaz, which means "hidden." It does not mean "the hidden God"; it means "hidden beauty." Love expressed is one thing, and love hidden is another thing. Under the veil of indifference love is often hidden, and the Sufi poets have pictured it most beautifully in their verses, which are nothing but pictures of human life and nature.
There are examples in the histories of the kings which show this character. Sometimes a person whom the king favored the most was kept back from being the prime minister. This did not mean that it was not the wish of the king; it only meant that the king considered the sympathy and admiration he had for the person more than the prime-ministership. In other aspects one sees it. The king did not speak to a person for a long time; this did not mean that the king disfavored him; it only meant that the king knew that he would understand. There are instances when the patience of saints and sages has been tried to the uttermost. The pain and suffering that the spiritual souls have sometimes gone through, has been greater than the average person's. Behind this indifference there are many reasons.
Then one sees the other part of kingliness--that those who, sometimes, the king cared little for, were graciously received and amply rewarded. The ordinary mind could not conceive of the reason behind. The one who is responsible for his subjects, as a king, he understood rightly, like a gardener who knows which plant to rear and which tree had better be cut out of the garden. In spite of all opposition from all around, the kings have held to their idea, conscious of their duty. So it is with God.
But, king apart, even the manner and method of a responsible person is not always understood by another whose responsibility is not the same, so how can man always understand the ways of God--the only King in the true sense of the word, before Whom all other kings are nothing but imitations? It is the Kingship of God which manifests in the blossoming of every soul. When a soul arrives at its full bloom, it begins to show the color and spread the fragrance of the Divine Spirit of God.
The Birth of God
The reason why the soul seeks for the God-Ideal is that it is dissatisfied with all that momentarily satisfies it. All beauty, goodness and greatness which man attributes to God is something he admires and seeks through life. He admires these things in others, and strives to attain them for himself; and when, at the end of examination, he finds that all that he touches as good, great, or beautiful falls short of that perfection which is his soul's seeking, he then raises his eyes towards the sky and seeks for the One Who has beauty, goodness, and greatness, which is God. The one who does not seek for God, he has, in the end of his journey of illusion, a disappointment, for through the whole journey he did not find the perfection of beauty, goodness, and greatness on the earth, and he neither believed nor expected to meet such an ideal in heaven. All disappointments, which are the natural outcome of this life of illusion, disappear when once a person has touched the God-Ideal, for what one seeks after in life, one finds in God.
Now the question is: all beauty, goodness and greatness, however small and limited, can be found on the earth, but where can the same be found in the Perfection called God? This may be answered that what is first necessary is the belief that there is such a Being as God, in Whom goodness, beauty, and greatness are perfect. In the beginning it will seem nothing but a belief; but in time, if the belief is kept in sincerity and faith, that belief will become like the egg of the phoenix, out of which the magic bird is born. It is the birth of God which is the birth of the soul. Every soul seeks for happiness, and after running after all objects which, for the moment, seem to give happiness, finds out that nowhere is there perfect happiness except in God. This happiness cannot come by merely believing in God. Believing is a process. By this process the God within is awakened and made living. It is the living of God which gives happiness. When one sees the injustice, the falsehood, the unfriendliness of human nature, and to what degree this nature develops, and that it culminates in tyranny of which individuals and the multitude become victims, there seems to be only one Source, and that is the center of the whole life, which is God, in Whom there is the place of safety from it all, and the source of peace, which is the longing of every soul.
The God-Ideal is meant to waken in the soul God, that it may realize His Kingship. It is this which is suggested in the prayer of Christ where it is said, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done." It is on this realization that the Kingdom of God comes; and what follows is that His Will is then done. But when a person does not know who is the king, he does not know what is the kingdom.
The kingdoms of the earth, from the time man has evolved so as to understand his affairs, have been established. Where man has learned the first lesson, when he first knew what a king means, what a kingdom means, he knew that there was someone whose command was obeyed by all, great and small, in the kingdom; who is the upraiser and the judge of all those who deserve honor and respect, who possess a treasure in the kingdom; who is as a mother and father of his subjects. Once this was learned, it gave the person an education to understand what a king means, as a child, after playing with her dolls, begins to understand the cares of the household.
The next step was taken in the spiritual path when the spiritual hierarchy was recognized. The Prophet or the high priest was recognized, representing the spiritual head. Then there was the hierarchy. In this way the next step was taken with the realization that it is not the outer environments, money and possession, which make a king, but it is the spiritual realization which can make a person greater than a king with all his kingly surroundings. This was proved to people when the king, who was accepted as the principal and head of the community, went before the high priest with bent head, and knelt down in the place of prayer. This gave the next lesson--that kingship is not in outer wealth, but in spirituality; that even the king stands humbly at the door of the God-realized man.
When once this step was taken, then there was the third step, which was to see that the high priest--considered as such even by the king--knelt down and bent his head low to the Lord, King of humanity, showing his greatness as dust before God, to Whom alone belongs all greatness. When the greatness of God was realized, God was glorified and the purpose of aristocracy was fulfilled, for it was nothing but a rehearsal before the battle. Once man realized that it is God alone before Whom man should bow, it is God alone Who really is rich and all are poor, it is God alone Whose wisdom and justice are perfect--then before him the kingship of the king and the holiness of the high priest faded away; before him remained only one King, the King of Kings; on Him he depended, and under Him he sought refuge under all the different circumstances in life.
After one had taken these three steps towards the goal, he found the goal to be quite different from the way that he had taken it, and the goal was the finding out the traces of that King within himself; a spark of that divine light which is the illumination of one's own heart; a ray of that Sun which is the light of the whole universe. And so self-realization developed, in which the soul found that wisdom, illumination, and peace which was the purpose of the God-Ideal.
God the Infinite
The Infinite God is the Self of God, and all that has manifested under name and form is the outward aspect of God. When we take all the forms existing and all the names put together, it becomes one form which is the Form of God. In other words, all names are the Name, and all forms are the Form of God. But as God is One, His Form is also One, and that is the sum total of all names and forms; there is no thing or being which is not the Being of God. In order to reach this, the wise have said there is God in everything, God is in every being.
Many have wondered if He is in everything, how does He live in everything, and as what; if He is in man, where is He to be found, and what part of man's being is to be considered God? Many answers may be given, yet no answer will satisfy, for the true answer is, that all is God and God is all: none exists save He. And the question: "What are we then?" may be answered by the phrase in the Bible, that "we live and move and have our being in God." God is we, but we are not gods. The difference between God and our being is not of the Being; in Being, God and we are one. The difference is in our limitation and in the perfection of God.
How are we to conceive of the idea of God, the Absolute? We are not meant to conceive of that. We, as limited beings, are not able to know perfection, but perfection itself knows perfection. We can imagine and make a God of our own, to make God intelligible to us, to make it easy for us to advance on the spiritual path, and as we advance, the Unlimited Being, working through us, makes His own way and realizes His perfection, for in this realization He only realizes Himself, which is not at all difficult for Him.
Man thinks that religion or philosophy or mysticism, all this he has learned as he has evolved. Yes, it is true, but the result of all this learning and evolution is realized to a certain degree, not only by unevolved human beings, but even by the animals and birds. They all have their religion, and they all worship God in their own way. The birds, while singing in the forest, feel that exaltation even more than man feels it after he has worshiped God, for all men who join in the prayers may not be so sincere as the birds in the forest; not one of them says its prayers without sincerity.
If a soul were wakened to feel what they feel when singing in the forest at dawn, he would know that their prayer is even more exalting than his own, for their prayer is more natural. The godly, therefore, worship their God with Nature, and in this manner of worship they experience perfect exaltation as the result of their prayer. Man thinks he is able to meditate and that he can concentrate, but he cannot do better meditation and concentration than the animals and birds in the forest. The cobra attracts its food by a thought. There are certain cobras whose food comes and falls into their mouth. They fast patiently for a long time, not worrying about the food for the morrow. There are men who, on the contrary, are anxiously busy about their breakfast: they are not even certain of their luncheon. They have no confidence in their own power nor faith in the providence of God.
In short, spirituality is attained by all beings, not only by man but by the beasts and the birds, and each has its own religion, its principle, its law, and its morals. For instance, a bird, whose honor it is to fly over the heads of those who walk on the earth, feels it beneath its dignity to be touched by an earthly being: it feels it is polluted. And if this bird is touched once by a human being, its fellow creatures will not rest till they have killed it, for it is outcast for them; they dwell in the air and it is their dignity to be so. The study of Nature is not only of interest for the student of science; the one who treads the path of spirituality, for him the study of Nature is of immense interest. Man will find in the end of his search in the spiritual line that all beings, including trees and plants, rocks and mountains, are all prayerful, and all attain to that spiritual perfection which is the only longing of all souls.
God's Dealings with Us
Mankind has a tendency to consider all that is pleasant to be from the mercy of God, and all that is unpleasant, either from the wrath of God or not from God at all, thinking: "God is just and merciful." Really speaking, under all pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life, there is God's goodness and mercy and justice hidden. We call things 'unjust' when we cannot see their justice; things are unpleasant to us when the standard of our pleasure is limited; things appear unmerciful to us when we restrict mercy in limitations. But sometimes things that do not seem to us just are just in their real nature; things unmerciful many times have mercy hidden behind them. Therefore, all that comes from God the Sufi takes with resignation, seeing and recognizing in it His mercy, goodness, and justice.
We, the children on earth, are as children in all our evolution through life before our Heavenly Father; and our action, in ignorance of this fact, is as the action of a little child. If the parents give him sweets, he takes it as their kindness; if they give him bitter medicine, he considers it wrath on their part, not knowing that in giving the bitter medicine their kindness is just the same. There are many things that we think are good for us; in fact, they may be the worst for our life.
One's not being able to obtain a certain position which he wanted; one's not being able to settle in a town where he desired to; one's not being able to visit a city that he wished to see; one's not being able to attain the wealth he wished for--all such unpleasant experiences make one discontented; and if he has not enough faith, he begins to think that there is no such thing as God. If we would only think how perfect is the mechanism of the infant's body, and how it works in such order, we should see and realize that there is some Power behind, with full wisdom and understanding, that sets all things going harmoniously, and the whole mechanism of the universe also in the same way.
There is a story that Moses had sought the association of Khidr, the guiding angel of all seeking souls, and had requested him to be allowed to follow his path. Khidr said, "No, Moses. Teach the law that is given you; our way is complex." After great persistence on the part of Moses, Khidr complied with his request, on one condition: "You must not interfere with my works, by any means, in any way." When, on the seashore, they saw a little child drowning, caught by a wave, and the mother calling loudly for help, Moses wished to run to help them, and he wanted Khidr to do the same. Khidr said, "I have told you not to interfere with my works." Moses said, "Oh, would you allow an innocent child to be drowned like this when you can help? How unkind!" Khidr said, "Think of your promise, and do not say another word."
They went farther, and took a boat to some port, and while in the boat Khidr began to enlarge the holes that were already in the boat. Moses said, "Oh, how unkind! Anyone who will sit in the boat will be drowned!" Khidr said, "It does not matter. Think of your promise, and do not say one word more." Upon Moses' great persistence in asking him to explain what it all meant, Khidr said, "The child that was drowning would have brought many families to destruction; therefore, it was meant by God that, before he became able to do so, he should be drowned. We have done nothing but allow the Will of God to take its course. And the boat in which I made the holes, when it will return, will carry thirty robbers who intend to destroy so many lives in a certain village, to accomplish their aim of robbery. It was meant by God that, as they have prepared themselves to destroy innocent lives, they may be destroyed before they can do so." This shows the meaning of a Sufi verse:
The Controller of the world knows how to control it, Whom He should rear and whom He should cut off.
Dependence Upon God
Dependence is matter and independence is the spirit. The independent spirit becomes dependent through manifestation. When One becomes many, then each part of the One, being limited, strives to be helped by the other part, for each part finds itself imperfect. Therefore, we human beings, however rich with the treasures of heaven and earth, are poor in reality, because of our dependence upon others. The spiritual view makes one conscious of this fact, and the material view blinds man, who then shows independence and indifference to his fellow man. Pride, conceit, and vanity are the outcome of this ignorance. There are moments when even the king has to depend upon a most insignificant person. Often one needs the help of someone before whom one has always been proud and upon whom one has always looked with contempt.
As individuals depend upon individuals, so the nations and races depend upon one another. As no individual can say, "I can get on without another person," so no nation can say, "We can be happy while another nation is unhappy." But an individual or a multitude depends most upon God, in Whom we all unite. Those who depend upon the things of the earth certainly depend upon things that are transitory, and they must someday or other lose them. Therefore, there remains only one object of dependence, that is, God, Who is not transitory, and Who always is and will be. Sa'adi has said, "He who depends upon Thee will never be disappointed."
No doubt it is the most difficult thing to depend upon God. For an average person, who has not known or seen, who never had any knowledge of such a personality existing as God, but has only heard in church that there exists Someone in the heavens, Who is called God, and has believed it, it is difficult to depend entirely upon Him. A person can hope that there is a God, that by depending upon Him he will have his desire fulfilled; a person can imagine that there can be Someone Whom people call God, but for him also it is difficult to depend entirely upon God. It is for them that the Prophet has said, "Tie your camel and trust in God." It was not said to Daniel, "Take a sword and go among the lions."
One imagines God, another realizes God; there is a difference between these two persons. The one who imagines can hope, but he cannot be certain. The one who realizes God, he is face to face with his Lord, and it is he who depends upon God with certainty. It is a matter of struggling along on the surface of the water, or courageously diving deep, touching the bottom of the sea. There is no greater trial for a person than dependence upon God. What patience it needs, besides the amount of faith it requires, to be in the midst of this world of illusion and yet to be conscious of the existence of God! To do this, man must be able to turn all that is called life into death, and to realize in what is generally called death--in that death--the true life. This solves the problem of false and real.
There is a saying that the one who troubles much about the cause is far removed from the cause. Many wonder: "If I am happy in life, what is the cause of it? If I am sorry in life, what is the cause of it? Is it my past life from where I have brought something which brings me happiness or unhappiness, or is it my action in this life which is the cause of my happiness or unhappiness?" And one can give a thousand answers and at the same time one cannot satisfy the questioner fully. When people think much about the law, they forget about love. When they think that the world is constructed according to a certain law, then they forget the Constructor Who is called in the Bible Love; God is Love.
In the first place, when we see from morning till evening man's selfish actions, whether good or bad actions, we see that he is not entitled to any happiness or anything good coming to him. And that shows that God does not always exact according to a certain law. He does not weigh your virtue on one side of the scale and His grace on the other, and exchange His grace for man's virtues. The Divine Being apart, man in his friendship, in his kindness, in his favor and disfavor, does he always exact what the other one is, or is doing? No. A friend admires his friend for his goodness and defends him for his wrongdoings. Does he not forget the law when there comes friendship? He forgets it. So man, instead of using justice and reason, overlooks all that is lacking and wrong.
Something right comes forward to cover it all, to forget it all, to forgive it all. A mother whose son is accused of having done something wrong, she knows he has done wrong and she knows he is against the law. At the same time there is something else in her which wishes to lift up, to clear away. She would spend anything, lose anything, sacrifice anything in order that her son might not be punished. When we see that in everyday life, according to his evolution, man has a tendency to forget, to forgive, to look at things favorably, to cover all that is ugly; if this tendency is in man, from where does it come? It comes from the source which is Perfection. There is God. It is most amusing to see how people make God and His actions mechanical and how for themselves they claim free will. They say: "I choose to do this," or "I choose to do that," and "I have the free will to choose." This is man's claim. And at the same time he thinks that God and all His works and the universe are a mechanism. It is all running automatically. Man denies that God has a free will, and he himself claims it.
People look at it in two ways. They say: "ALL that man does is recorded, and in accordance to that it is adjusted. On the Judgment Day, either he has the reward of his good deeds or the punishment for his wrong deeds." Others who are more philosophical and intellectual say: "It is not God but it is the law, the automatic working which brings about a result in accordance to the cause, and therefore, what man has done in his past life, he experiences in this life." And there is a third point of view, that it need not be the hereafter and that it need not be the life ahead, in which man can have the experience and the result of his deeds, but that every day is his Judgment Day and that every day brings the result of his deeds. That is true also.
There is no doubt that the world is constructed on a certain law, that the whole creation works according to a certain law. And yet it is not all. There is love beyond it, and it is the Prophets of all ages who have recognized that part of God's working and have given man that consolation and hope that in spite of our faults and shortcomings we will reach heaven. There is the Grace of God. Many know the Grace of God. and what does it mean? It means a wave of favor, a rising of love, a manifestation of compassion which sees no particular reason. One may say: "Does God close His eyes? Why must it be like this?" But in human nature we see the same thing. The divine nature can be recognized by human nature. Ask a lover who loves someone: "What is the beauty of that person? What is in that person that makes you love her?"
He may try to explain: "It is because this person is kind, or because this person is beautiful, or because this person is good, or because this person is compassionate, or intellectual, or learned." But that is not the real cause. If really he knows what makes him love, he will say: "Because my beloved is beloved; that is the reason. There is no other reason." One can give a reason for everything. One can say: "I pay this person because he is good in his work; I pay for this stone because it is beautiful; but I cannot give a reason why I love; there is no reason for it." Love stands beyond law, beyond reason. The love of God works beyond reason, that Divine Love which is called the Grace of God; no piety, no spirituality, no devotion can attract it. No one can say: "I will draw the Divine Grace." God apart, can anyone say in this world: "I shall draw the friendship of someone." No one can say this. This is something which comes by itself. No one can command or attract it, or compel anyone to be his friend. It is natural. God's Grace is God's Friendship, God's Grace is God's Love, God's Compassion. No one has the power to draw it, to attract it; no meditation, no spirituality, no good action can attract it. There is no commercial business between God and man; God stands free from rules which humanity recognizes. That aspect makes him the Lord of his own creation, as the wind blows, as the wind comes when it comes, so the Grace of God comes when it is its time to come.
I have heard people say, "I am ill," or "I am suffering," or "I am going through a difficulty," or "Things go wrong because of my Karma of the past." I say: "If it is so or if it is not so, your thinking about it makes it still worse; everything that one acknowledges to be, it becomes worse because one acknowledges it." That Karma which could be thrown away in one day's time, by acknowledging it, will keep with a person all his life. Some people think that they suffer or that they go through pain according to the law of Karma. But when the thought of the Grace of God comes and when one realizes the real meaning of the Grace of God, one begins to rise above it, and one begins to know that, "My little actions, my good deeds, all my good deeds I must collect in order to make them equal to God's mercy and compassion, His grace and His love, which He gives at every moment." God's compassion cannot be returned by all life's good actions. The relation of God and man apart, can one return a real thought of love, all a friend has done for us? We can love that friend, his loving kindness and his compassion. But we can never repay it. In all our life we cannot repay it.
Then we see the kindness and the compassion of God, which is always hidden from our view because we are always seeing what is lacking, the pain, the suffering, the difficulties. Man is so absorbed in them that he loses the vision of all the good that is there. We can never be grateful enough if we see like this, that it is not the law, but that it is the Grace of God which governs our life. And it is the trust and confidence in this Grace which not only consoles a person, but which lifts him and brings him nearer and nearer to the Grace of God.
Divine Grace is a loving impulse of God which manifests in every form, in the form of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, beneficence, and revelation. No action, however good, can command it; no meditation, however great, can attract it. It comes naturally, as a wave rising from the Heart of God, unrestricted or unlimited by any law. It is a natural impulse of God. When it comes, it comes without reason. Neither its coming nor its absence has any particular reason. It comes because it comes; it does not come because it does not come.
It is in Grace that God's Highest Majesty is manifested. While pouring out His Grace He stands on such a high pedestal, that neither law nor reason can touch it. Every blessing has a certain aspect, but Grace is a blessing which is not limited to a certain aspect, but manifests through all aspects. Grace is all-sided: health, providence, love coming from all those around you, inspiration, joy, peace.
The Will, Human and Divine
The question of the will, human and divine, may be seen from two points of view, from the wisdom point of view and from the point of view of the ultimate Truth. If words can explain something, it is from the former point of view; the latter point of view allows no word to be spoken in the matter, for in the absolute Truth two do not exist, there is no such thing as two; there is One Alone. From the wisdom point of view, one sees one weaker, one stronger, and one has to give in to the power of the other. This one sees in all aspects of the creation. The little fish is eaten by the larger fish, but the little fish lives upon smaller fishes. So there is no one in this world so strong that he has not another stronger still, and there is no one in this world so weak that he has not another who is weaker still.
The other thing one can think about, is the opposing conditions and situations which stand before a willing mind and a striving person like a stone wall, so that, with every wish to do something and to accomplish, one does not find his way. It is this experience which has made man say, "Man proposes, God disposes." The Hindu philosophers have called these two great powers, one of which is an intention and the other the power of destruction, by the names Brahma, the Creator, and Shiva, the Destroyer. The most wonderful part in this creation and destruction is that what Brahma creates in a thousand years, Shiva destroys in one moment. Since God is almighty, the wise see the Hand of God in the greater power, manifesting either through an individual or by a certain condition or situation, and instead of struggling too much against the difficulties in life, and instead of moaning over the losses which cannot be helped, they are resigned to the Will of God.
In short, every plan that a person makes, and his desire to accomplish that plan, is often an outcome of his personal will; and when his will is helped by every other will that he comes in contact with in the path of the attainment of a certain object, then he is helped by God. As every will goes in the direction of his will and so his will becomes strengthened, often a person accomplishes something which perhaps a thousand people could not have been able to accomplish. Then there is another person who has a thought, a desire, and finds opposition from every side; everything seems to go wrong, and yet he has the inner urge which prompts him to go on in the path of attainment. There also is the Hand of God behind his back, pushing him on, forward in his path, even though there might seem oppositions in the beginning of his strife--but all is well that ends well.
The saintly souls, who consider it as their religion to seek the pleasure of God and to be resigned to His will, are really blessed, for their manner is pleasing to everyone, for they are conscientious lest they may hurt the feeling of anyone, and if by some mistake they happen to hurt someone's feelings, they feel they have hurt God Whose pleasure they must constantly seek, for the happiness of their life is only in seeking the pleasure of God. They watch every person and every situation and condition, and their heart becomes so trained by constantly observing life keenly, as a lover of music whose ears become trained in time, who distinguishes between the correct and the false note. So they begin to see every desire that springs in their heart, if it is in accordance with the Will of God. Sometimes they know the moment the desire was sprung; sometimes they know when they have gone halfway in the path of its pursuit; and sometimes they know at the end of strife. But even then, at the end of it, their willingness to resign to the Will of God becomes their consolation, even in the face of disappointment. The secret of seeking the Will of God is in cultivating the faculty of sensing harmony, for harmony is beauty, and beauty is harmony. The lover of beauty in his further progress becomes the seeker of harmony, and by trying always to maintain harmony man will tune his heart to the Will of God.
Making God Intelligible
Sometimes the question is asked, "How can we make God intelligible?"
You can make a chair intelligible by touching, by looking at it, and seeing how it is made. You make a house intelligible by seeing how it is made. You can make a tree intelligible by seeing how it is: its stem, fruits, leaves, appearance, then what comes out of it. The word intelligible means through our senses we feel a thing, we know a thing, we have a conception of a thing; that is to make it intelligible. To make anything intelligible is to make a concrete conception of it.
And now the question is how to make God intelligible? It is impossible to make God intelligible, really. But, at the same time, it is in order to make God intelligible that the Egyptians made the Sphinx; it is in order to make God intelligible that the fire-worshipers offered homage to the sun; it is in order to make God intelligible that people have made idol worship, and it is also in order to make God intelligible that people esteemed their divine ideal with their devotion, as those worshipers of Jesus Christ. All these forms are attempts on the part of man to make God intelligible. Man can only make God intelligible in the form that seems to him the best. That form must be seen by him, must be imagined by him, and must be known by him. If he knows that form as a person, he calls it Christ, or some other name he gives to it.
He makes him the king, because he thinks that the king is the greatest person. He gives him the throne and crown. He calls him the Master of the Day of Judgment, because he knows there is no justice in this world, so he thinks God must be the Judge. He thinks all that is beautiful, surrounds him with angels, conceives the form of angels as human beings. He pictures God in the form of man. There have been attempts of putting all sorts of things on one being. The Chinese used to make a dragon to which all things were attached--fish, lion, tiger, man, everything that existed--in order to make one form intelligible to serve as a symbol suggesting and teaching many things. Every effort is a failure, but every effort to make God intelligible is worthwhile.
Now there have been two stages of making God intelligible. One stage was idol worship, and the other stage was ideal worship. One was the primitive stage, a stage in which God was made manifest in an unusual form, but at the same time intelligible. A further stage was that they made God an ideal. Instead of making Him a God of forms, they made Him a God of attributes. And then they said all the beauty, goodness, wisdom, and justice belong to Him. All things that we can conceive in our mind, we give those things to God, and consider all those things in God in their perfection. That is the highest form of making God intelligible. That all that our intelligence, our mind thinks as beautiful, as good, as valuable, to see all that in perfection in One Being, and to idealize that Being as the greatest and the highest of all beings: that is what we call making God intelligible. But, at the same time, in the spiritual path that is the first step. In the religious path that is the last step; in the spiritual path that is the first step.
Man's Relation to God
Man's relation to God may be likened to the relation of the bubble and the sea. Man is of God, man is from God, man is in God, as the bubble is from water, of water, and in water. So much the same and yet so different! The bubble is different and the sea is different and there is no comparison between them. So, though God and man are not different, yet there is such a difference that there is no comparison. Hafiz says, "What comparison between earth and heaven?" The same reason makes man small before God, as the bubble is small before an ocean, and yet it is not apart from the ocean, nor is it of any other element than the ocean. Therefore Divinity is in man as in God. The Divinity of Christ means the Divinity of man, although Divinity itself is the ideal.
The word divine has its origin in Sanskrit. It is from Deva, which means the same--divine. And yet the root of this word means light. That means that the divine is that part of being which is illuminated by the light within. Therefore, though in man, the light is hidden, not disclosed. He is not divine. If the hidden light were divine, then the stone could be divine too, for the spark of fire is hidden in the rock. All life is one, no doubt, and all names and forms are of the same life. But that part of life out of which springs light, illuminating itself and its surroundings and bringing to its notice its own being, is divine; for in this is the fulfillment of the purpose of the whole creation, and every activity is directed to bringing about the same purpose.
How calmly the mountains and hills seem to be waiting for some day to come. If we went near them and listened to their voice, they would tell us this. And how eagerly the plants and the trees in the forest seem to be waiting for some day, for some hour to come, the hour of the fulfillment of their desire! If we could only hear the words they say! In animals, in birds, in the lower creation, the desire is still more intense and still more pronounced. The seer can see it when his glance meets their glance. But the fulfillment of this desire is in man: the desire that has worked through all aspects of life and brought forth different fruits, yet preparing a way to reach the same Light which is called divinity. But even man, whose right it is, cannot touch it unless he acquire the knowledge of the Self, which is the essence of all religions.
It is easy to claim that, "I am God!"; but what is it? Is it not insolence on the part of man, who is subject to illness, death, and disease? It is bringing the highest ideal of God on the lowest plane. It is like the illusion of the bubble saying, "I am the sea! I am the sea!" when his own conscience, as well as everybody else's, sees that he is a bubble. And again it is blind on the part of man, however righteous and pious he may be, to say, "I am separate, God is separate. I am on earth, God is in heaven." He will pray and worship a thousand years and not reach near God. Since, according to the idea of an astronomer, it would take so many hundreds of years to reach a certain planet, how could one reach so high as the Abode of God, which is supposed to be still higher and farther than anything else?
No man has a right to claim divinity as long as he is conscious of his limited self. He only, who is so absorbed in the contemplation of the Perfect Being that his limited self is lost from his sight, could say this, which in many cases is not said. It is at this time that man closes his lips, lest he might say a word that might offend the ears of the people in the world. "O bird, cry gently, for the ears of the beloved are tender!" And if anyone, such as Mansur, has claimed divinity, it is in that wine of divine Life that intoxicated him, and the secret came out of him as it comes from a drunken man, which, if he had been sober, he would not have given out.
The wise realize the Divine Being in the loss of the thought of self, and melt in Him, and become absorbed in Him, and enjoy the peace that they can derive from the Divine Life, but live in the world gently, meekly and thoughtfully, just like every man. It is the unwise who show themselves too wise. And with the increase of wisdom that beauty of innocence comes that makes the wise the friend of everyone, both stupid and wise. It is the stupid who cannot agree with the wise, but the wise can agree with the stupid as well as with the wise. He can become both, while the stupid man is what he is.
In the terms of the Sufis the divine manner is called Akhlak-i Allah. Man thinks, speaks, and acts according to the pitch to which his soul is tuned. The highest note he could be tuned to is the divine note, and it is that pitch, once man arrives at it, that he begins to express the manner of God in everything he does. And what is the manner of God? It is the kingly manner, a manner which is not even known to the kings, for it is a manner which only the King of the heaven and of the earth knows. And that manner is expressed by the soul who is tuned to God, a manner which is void of narrowness, a manner which is free from pride and conceit, the manner which is not only beautiful but beauty itself, for God is beautiful and He loves beauty.
The soul who is tuned to God, also becomes as beautiful as God, and begins to express God through all that it does, expressing in life the divine manner. Why is it a kingly manner? By the word kingly we only signify someone who possesses power and wealth in abundance. The soul tuned to God, before whom all things fade away and in whose eyes the importance of all little things, of which every person thinks so much, is lessened, that soul begins to express the divine manner in the form of contentment. It might seem to an ordinary person that to this soul nothing matters, no gain is exciting, no loss is alarming; if anyone praises, it has no consequence: if anyone blames, it does not matter to him; the honor and the insult, this all to him is a game, for in the end of the game, neither the gain is a gain nor the loss is a loss; it was only a pastime.
One might think, What does such a person do to the others; what good is he to those around him? That person, for the others and those around him, is a healing; that person is an influence for uplifting souls--the souls who are suffering from the narrowness and from the limitation of human nature. For human nature is not only narrow and limited, but it is foolish and it is tyrannous. The reason is that the nature of life is intoxicating. Its intoxication makes people drunken. And what does the drunken man want? He wants his drink: he does not think about another. In this life there are so many liquors that man drinks: the love of wealth, passion, anger, possession; man is not only satisfied with possessing earthly properties, but he also wishes to possess those whom he pretends to love, and in this way proves to be tyrannous and foolish.
For all things of this world that man possesses, he does not in reality possess them, only he is possessed by them, be it wealth or property or a friend or position or rank. The soul with divine manner is therefore sober compared with the drunken man of the world: it is this soberness that produces in him that purity which is called Sufism, and it is through that purity that God reflects in his mirror-like soul. For the soul who reflects God, nothing frightens; he is above all flight, for he possesses nothing, and all fright is connected with the possessions that man has. Does it mean that he leaves the world and goes and passes his life in the caves of the mountain? Not in the least. He may have the wealth of the whole world in his possession, he may have the kingdom of the whole universe under him, but nothing binds him, nothing ties him, nothing frightens him, for that only belongs to him which is his own. And when his soul is his own, all is his own, and what belongs to him cannot be taken away. And if anyone took it away, it is he himself who did it. He is his friend and his foe, and so there is no longer a pain or suffering, a complaint or grudge; he is at peace, for he is at home, be he on earth or be he in heaven.
The difference between God and man is that God is omniscient and man only knows of his own affairs. As God is omniscient, He loves all and His interest is in all; and so it is with the godly soul. The divine personality, expressed through the godly soul, shows itself in its interest for all, whether known or unknown to that soul. His interest is not only for another, because of his kind nature or of his sympathetic spirit; he does not take interest in another person, in his welfare and well-being because it is his duty, but because he sees in another person himself. Therefore, the life and interest of another person to the godly soul is as his own. In the pain of another person the godly soul sorrows; in the happiness of another person the godly soul rejoices. So the godly soul, who has almost forgotten himself, forgets also the remaining part of the self in taking interest in others. From one point of view it is natural for the godly soul to take interest in another. The one who has emptied himself of what is called self in the ordinary sense of the word is only capable of knowing the condition of another. He sometimes knows, perhaps, more than the person himself, as a physician knows the case of his patient.
Divine manner, therefore, is not like that of the parents to their children, of a friend toward his beloved friend, of a king to his servant, or of a servant to his master. Divine manner consists of all manners; it is expressive of every form of love; and if it has any peculiarity, that peculiarity is one, and that is divine. For in every form of love and affection, there somewhere the self is hidden, which asks for appreciation, for reciprocity, for recognition. The divine manner is above all this. It gives all and asks nothing in return in any manner or form, in this way proving the Action of God through man.
The Sufi's Conception of God
The idea of God is a means for the Sufi to rise from imperfection to Perfection, which is suggested in the Bible: "Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is Perfect." There is a vast gulf between the state of imperfection and the state of Perfection, and God is the boat in which one sails from the port of imperfection to Perfection.
To a Sufi, God and man are not two; the Sufi does not consider God separate from himself. The Sufi's God is not in Heaven alone; He is everywhere. He sees God in the unseen and in the seen; he recognizes God both within and without. Therefore there is no name which is not the Name of God, and there is no form which is not the form of God, to the eyes of the Sufi. As Jelal-ud-Din Rumi says: "The Beloved is all in all; the lover only veils Him; the Beloved is all that lives; the lover a dead thing." In other words, he means that this dual aspect of love which is expressed as lover and beloved, is in fact one, and that one will die and one alone will live. The one that will die is the imperfect self which covers Perfection; the One that will live is the Perfect Self.
The Sufi recognizes both these aspects in himself, the imperfect and mortal aspect of his being and the Perfect, the Immortal, Aspect of his Being. The former his outer self represents; the latter is his innermost self. Since the imperfect self covers his soul and confines it in a limited being, he recognizes at the same time the greatness of the Perfect Being, and calls himself "I," a servant of God, and God the Lord of the whole existence. In the Sufi schools in the East this idea is expressed in a Qur'anic allegory which moves those who enjoy its poetic delicacy. In the Qur'an it is related that, when the first man was made, he was asked: "Say, who is thy Master?" and he answered, "Thou art my Lord."
Philosophically, this idea is the picture of human life. Man begins his life on earth by accepting somebody's command, fearing lest he cause him any displeasure, looking upon someone as his support, protector, or guide, be it in the form of father or mother, a relation, friend, master, or king, which shows that man begins his life in the world with his imperfection, at the same time recognizing, surrendering, and bowing to perfection in whatever form. When man understands this better, then he knows that all sources that demanded his surrender, or recognition, were limited and powerless in comparison to that perfect ideal which we call God. Therefore, it is the same attribute that the ordinary man has toward another who is greater than he in strength, power, or position, that the Sufi learns to show toward his God, the ideal of Perfection, because in God he includes all forms in which he recognizes beauty, power, greatness, and perfection. Therefore the worship of the Sufi is not alone worship of the Deity; by worship he means to draw closer to perfection; by worship he tries to forget his imperfect self in the contemplation of the Perfect One.
It is not necessary that the Sufi should offer his prayers to God for
help in worldly things, or by thanking Him for what he receives, although this
attitude develops in man a virtue that is necessary in life. By the thought of
God, the whole idea of the Sufi is to cover his imperfect self even from his
own eyes, and that moment when God is before him, and not his own self, is the
moment of perfect bliss to him. My Murshid, Abu Hashim Madani, once said that
there is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on this path: virtue when he is
conscious of God and sin when he is not. No explanation can be sufficient to
describe the truth of this except the experience of the contemplative, to whom,
when he is conscious of God, it is as if a window is open which is facing
Heaven, and, when conscious of the self, the experience is the opposite. For
all the tragedy of life is caused by consciousness of self. Every pain and
depression is caused by this, and anything that can take away the thought of
the self helps to a certain extent to relieve man from pain; but
God-consciousness gives a perfect relief.
Our relation to God can be understood in five different ways: in idealizing God, in recognizing God, in communicating with God, in realizing God, and in attaining Perfection.
Idealizing God. Every sincere and earnest believer in God experiences this stage. It is the stage in which he stands before God in humility and gentleness, or with repentance for his sins and faults, or looking up to heaven and asking for pardon. Whether the Being or Person he idealizes is much greater or only comparatively greater than himself, he understands that he is a mere drop in comparison with the ocean, that he is a most limited being as against an unlimited God, that he is most feeble while the other is almighty. He realizes that there is a Being filled with all the virtues and goodness and justice and mercy and compassion imaginable. Everyone, whatever his religion, experiences this first stage during which he is a faithful believer in God.
This is the ideal taught from childhood even in ancient times. Today some teach it, and some do not. Education has taken a different turn, with the result that the idealization of God has been disappearing from the stage of life. However, in the East this ideal is still taught to little children by instilling in them a respect for the father and mother, and they are also taught to consider their eider brother or sister as well as the friends of their parents. In this way the child is brought up with a feeling of respect; he is given a kind of ideal to look up to and to understand. He will be shown that he must not contradict his father, because he is not yet old enough to understand the full meaning of his father's words. For instance he would not understand that it may be better to say an untruth rather than a truth in a case where the former would make for harmony and the latter for disharmony. Many things seem to be untrue for the moment, yet as we grow up to understand things better we find that from another point of view they may be true. Therefore a child should show consideration for his elders. The Prophet rebuked his grandson for not calling a servant 'uncle'; the servant, being older, must know more than he.
Gentleness, sense of respect, and veneration make man different from the animals. If men did not behave like animals the past war would not have been possible. Dogs bark at each other. Not only one but all of the prophets have brought the message that man should show himself higher than the animals in this respect, and that they should give way to one another instead of barking at each other. The first lesson imparted to humanity has been that of idealizing. It is not only the Bible that calls the humble, the gentle, and the meek blessed; the Qur'an and other sacred books say so too. It was even taught in ancient Rome. Each nation which has arrived at a certain point of understanding and acts according to true humanity has come to realize that man is different from the animals only to the extent of his idealizing.
FROM:THE VISION OF GOD AND MAN - The Divine Presence
Some have said that God is the good, all the good. If we ask them, "What is evil?" they say, "Satan." Then there are two, and the power of evil is greater. We see evil always stronger in the world. Then God gives us the spell of virtue, and when His power is finished, then comes the spell of evil. They have divided the absolute into two; they have made a split.
A question comes, "Is all that we see God, all the trees, and
flowers, and rocks, and birds and animals; or is God that infinite, invisible
state, the invisible Being, the Artist Who creates all this?" The God that
is worthy of admiration, worthy of praise and worship, is not good or bad. He
is not one part. The mystics, the prophets have never come to teach the split:
they have come to teach that there is one Being, the whole Being.
You will ask, "When we have recognized that the self is all, whom should we praise, admire, worship, and love? To praise, worship, admire, and love brings the idea of another. We cannot worship our self, praise our self, admire our self." I will say that you are born with a tendency to worship. There is someone whom you admire, someone before whom you bow, someone of whom you ask help.
If we want someone to do something for us, we bow before him. If we want his money, his favor, we bow before him. The beauties that are beautiful for one day, and tomorrow the beauty may be gone, we admire. Why should we then not admire, why should we not love and worship that Being Who is sufficient to supply all our needs, Whose beauty never changes, and Whose beauty is all that there is?
Man is born with the wish to praise and I will say that it is by
praise that man has made God.
FROM: Dutch Papers, RELIGION II, The Ideal of God
The believer who idealizes believes in God so long as his intelligence is not sufficiently developed, as development of the intelligence dims the idealized belief. A lover would love a beauty as long as its faults are unmanifested, but on closer contact the defects of the beloved become manifest, and thus would dim the love of the lover. But the believer who realizes is one who acts as an extraordinary lover, who, not depending upon the beauty of the beloved, creates the beauty from his loving heart and thus beautifies the vision of the beloved in his view.
One generally finds people who are less responsive to nature's beauty and less sympathetic, who are prone to criticize rather than admire. They develop with age a non-venerating tendency, and it becomes intolerable for them to see any being in a more exalted position than they are themselves. This in time increases so that they cannot even bear to believe that there exists any being such as God. Another unbeliever is a person who is born with reason and logic and believes in ideas so far as the objective world may prove their identity to his view. In his advancement of intelligence he may arrive at last to a perfect thought, he may realize the changeability of nature and the essence of all being one and the same. He may even realize that there is an immortal life behind the scene of the visible world. Still the lack of idealization does not make him believe in the identity of God as an object of worship.
The Sufi by his experience of idealizing as well as analyzing becomes
balanced. He does not by his analyzing stand against the numberless creatures
who have believed in God since ages, but his analysis of God he calls Sufism,
the knowledge of purity. He never claims that he is God, neither does he feel
that he is a separate identity from Him. His veneration is for the harmony of
the world and for the sweetness of personality, and his analysis is to realize
the truth of nature and things as they ought to be. His idealization is for
love, Harmony and Beauty, and his analysis is for illumination. He bows before
God, not considering Him as a separate Supreme Being, but the Sufi's homage is
to the consciousness, the unmanifested God within, who watches this temporary
manifestation which exists for today but tomorrow will be no more. The Sufi by
his bow trains the world by showing them the right path. At the same time he
purifies consciousness from its delusions. The Sufi, by repeating the name of
Allah, kindles the fire of his heart that all aspects of the Beloved--God in
the manifestation--either good or bad, are beautified, at least for his view.
Thus he creates Heaven within himself. God bless you.
The Dutch Papers, religion 4, Guidance
Those who think that God is not outside but inside, they are as wrong as
those who believe that God is not inside but outside. Really speaking, God is
inside and outside both. But in the beginning it is most necessary to begin by
believing in the God outside. Because from our childhood we have learned
everything from outside. By looking at the eyes of the others we say that is
the eye. Everything that we learn from outside we see in ourselves, but we have
always learned outside. So even to learn to see God we must begin to see God
outside. The Creator, the Judge, the Knower of all things, the Forgiver. And
when we have understood Him better, then the next step is to see the God
within; that completes. Then that God which we have seen outside, we find
inside; that completes the worshipping. But if we only found Him outside then
we are the worshippers, but we are separate from Him, and there is no
communion. And the purpose is the communion.
The Dutch Papers –Classes for Mureeds - Things Necessary for a Mureed
"One thing that we must remember is that Una, as a type of soul, has reached a stage of the soul's development, and has come almost face to face with the ideal of God. Therefore we cannot take her as a type of all souls. Because all souls have not come to begin to fathom that. She is a soul approaching the.... of the...., and coming face to face. The statue says, "By finishing me, thou fulfillest the purpose of thy life. " When she takes the bowl of poison she is passing an initiation, not as an ordinary being, but as a disciple who tries to build up her own life.)
The Dutch Papers - MISCELLANEOUS VII - Question Class (2)
A. The idea that God is the Only Being, and exists as All, is the end,
not the beginning. It develops at the end of life, not at the
beginning. But the pleasure and displeasure of God is felt when once we
have made God within us. The making of God is the same as the making of
friends; when you make a real friend, the friend is within you, and then you
can very well imagine the pleasure and displeasure of your friend. The
dutiful son, the loving daughter, the kind mother, etc. all these have not only
got their relations before them, but also within them. They understand
how the child, friend, beloved, feels. They understand not because they
are outside, but because they have the duplicate within; and when we
communicate with that duplicate we understand very easily.
So when we make God within as perfect, as great, as large, as beautiful as possible, that is the only way of communicating with God. We cannot communicate with the Only Being; it is too far. It is through the God within that the Only Being speaks to you. That is the symbological meaning of idolatry. In the inward idol we make a God of our own within, and see him expand more and more.
Addresses to the Cherags August 9, 1925