of the soul
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan
In the East they explain that if an infant cries, as the first thing it does after its birth, it is because it grieves over the loss it experiences. That loss is the loss of freedom. The soul which was once free and could float in the spheres higher than the birds and could expand and live as light and life, has become captive in this limited body of flesh and bone, and has come on earth, a sphere quite new and strange to the infant. It neither had made any connection with earthly beings nor with the earth's atmosphere. That is why the first thing a soul does is that it cries. The Sufis and all mystics have recognized this fact most, and have founded their philosophy on this theory: that man, through every condition in his life, is consciously or unconsciously seeking for freedom.
Maybe one person seeks freedom from having to think too much about the question of living, another from having to work, another may be seeking for freedom from some influence which is around him, perhaps another one seeks freedom with a national point of view. But they each and all strive continually for freedom and what gives them the incentive to strive for freedom is that unconscious craving which is born with the infant from the moment of its birth. So man is continually striving, knowingly or unknowingly, to attain that freedom.
And so our despair, our depression, our sorrow, our worries have a thousand reasons, but at the back of them all is one and the same reason: that our soul is striving every day for freedom - something that perhaps death will give us. Often people commit suicide for the same reason: to gain freedom by it. Sometimes they think, "getting away from everybody will give us this freedom". But they do not know that, whatever effort one makes to get out of a situation, yet one is not free, because it is one's own self that is in captivity. Apart from all outer situations which give the impression of imprisonment, even our own self is captive, we are captive in our selves.
Now I must explain the relation between the soul and the body. The relation of the soul to the body is as that of the spark to the charcoal. The spark of fire, when it touches the charcoal, is caught by the charcoal. When one says in English that something has caught fire, it means that the fire, which was apart from the thing, has been caught by it. So the soul is caught by the body. This can also be seen in another way: that the body is caught by the soul, or better: that the body is used by the soul. So the relation of the soul to the body is that of the fire catching the charcoal. As the charcoal turns into ashes, so the body has its end; it is destroyed one day. The fire is not lost, it has disappeared into its own element, into heat.
It is the sun which is in electricity and in gaslight, and in all forms of heat it is the sun which manifests through different processes. Every form of light is quite different from the sun, and can be distinguished from it, yet it is the same heat which appears through the process of different forms of light. It is the same with the Spirit which is One, like the sun, and which through several processes has appeared as souls. One has become many in different forms. The One appears as many, yet in reality is not many. In other words, light may appear as five lights in a room, or as six or as a hundred, but in reality it is one light. It is many in its appearance, because there are so many globes and each globe limits the light. In the same way each human body has taken divine light into it, and again they seem to be many lights. Therefore, each of these lights, seen in many globes, is called a soul. What we call light is the Spirit itself, seen in the different globes as different souls; the globes are the bodies. All human beings are one Consciousness, they have one source and one goal. At the same time the Spirit is caught by different vehicles.
The condition is that the body holds the soul and the soul holds the body. The soul holds the body in order to accomplish its purpose, and the body holds the soul, because the day the soul will leave it, it will turn into nothing. Therefore, the body is continually striving to keep the soul, because it is made for it and it lives for it, and it is the body's continual desire for the soul to live in it. This being the situation, it is only at the moment, when the soul feels that it has finished its work and should no longer exist in the body, that it leaves the body. Or else the body has become so feeble that it can no longer hold the soul; so it goes and as a result there is death. Often there are people who wish to die and do not die. The reason is that it is their mind that wishes for death, but the body is still clinging to the soul, and the soul is still using the body for its purpose, although the mind is against it. That is why death does not come. There are others who say, "Now the body is too feeble, it cannot hold the soul". Yet the mind says, "I have not finished. I have not seen my friend, my husband, my daughter. I would like to live until I have seen them". And one goes on living, because the soul has the impression that something is not finished and holds on to that body which no longer can hold the soul. It holds on so long as that particular desire has not been achieved.
Since the soul has been caught by the physical body, there comes a time when the soul awakes. As long as it is asleep it is in a kind of dream in the physical body. That is the condition of the average man: a kind of dream. The mystic is the one who is awake, but it is most amusing that the average man will call the mystic a dreamer. In reality it is he who is dreaming. During this dream the soul knows nothing but all that appears before it. For instance, one's desires, habits, wishes, experiences, environment, actions, thoughts, impressions, all these things are like a dream the soul is busy dreaming. Perhaps one person will dream all his life; another will wake up in his middle age or in his youth. But there are souls like Jesus Christ, wherein from childhood their wakeful condition begins to manifest. It does not depend upon a certain age; even an infant, a rare infant, may be awake, and it may be that a person lives all his life in a dream and goes on in the same dream. Yet there is a subconscious awakening when something begins to say, "You are dreaming; there is something else for you to know". But one does not listen to it.
It is told of a great scientist that in his old age, when all his work, his books, his discoveries were achieved, one day he said to his wife, "Do you really think that there is something on the other side?" She replied, "I have always believed that, all my life".
-"I wish I could believe like
Her belief was without seeing, belief had awoken in her. She said, "You must also believe", but he said, "I cannot believe. You believe in something like that, and I believe in you".
It is very pathetic and also very interesting to see this intelligent man - a good man, all his life doing good work, a man of research, a beautiful heart and soul - beginning one day to awake, although he had not the training to awaken belief in something which cannot be witnessed. He could not admit such a belief, but his wife had religion and his religion was his wife.
So in our lives that time comes sooner or later when we awake from this dream. As soon as we wake up from dreaming, our first thoughts are, "What is it all about? Why are we here? What are we doing here? Where are we to go? What is the purpose of our life?" And when these thoughts come, then we begin to feel a little less interested in the things of this life. This does not mean that we become less capable of doing them. On the contrary, an awakened person can accomplish greater worldly things than other persons and in a better way. If, for instance, our politicians and our great merchants and wealthy men, educationists and scientists today were spiritual persons, the world would become different. They would not be any less than they are; they would accomplish greater things as scientists, as businessmen. You must not think that being spiritual only means desiring to run away from the world, to go to the forest and to sit there. Yes, they would not give the same importance to things as would the man who is in a dream, but at the same time they would be more inspired and accomplish more things in the world than if they were not spiritually awakened. Everything an awakened soul does, in business, in the state, in society or in political life, in all different aspects, it has a meaning for him, it has a life because he does it from the heart and not rigidly.
For instance, we see so many criminals under laws and regulations and so many courts. When the Prophet Muhammad declared that it was haram, prohibited, even to touch liquor, today twelve centuries after the Prophet has gone, every true Muslim feels in his heart, "I must not touch it". Some may go and drink, but at the same time, with tears in their eyes they say, "I am sorry. Our Prophet has said 'No'. I feel ashamed to show my face to my Prophet; he has said No". That is a different feeling. The awakened soul, whatever he does or says, is living, his impression is greater.
If the generals, the politicians and statesmen, the businessmen and industrialists of today were awakened souls, we would not have had wars. At this time we have passed those days of stupidity when people used to kill one another in the street. We are in a different stage of realization. Today there is no need of war. Humanity is grown-up now; it is no longer an infant. Even after the war why is there no peace here, no security of peace? We do not know what will happen tomorrow. If that is the case, it shows that something is missing, and that is the realization that we are dreaming. People think they are awake, that they have common sense, and yet they are asleep. At the League of Nations there is every day a new lecture and a dispute and much ado about it, and yet they are all in the same boat. They say that when things are settled conditions will be better. But when will things be settled? Not when they are settled on the outside, they must be settled within us. We must be awakened from this dream we are in. The soul must come to the realization of what it is. Then a better day will come for us.
Now coming to the signs one sees after the awakening of the soul, the first sign is that one begins to see from two points of view. One begins to see the right of the wrong and the wrong of the right. One begins to see the good of the bad and the bad of the good. In everything one begins to see the same, reflected in its opposite. And in that way one rises above intellectuality, because then it appears to us a primitive or elementary knowledge. Elementary knowledge says, "It is such and so, it is grey or black, dark or light". But as soon as one has gone one step forward one sees the contrary of it. One sees what is right in the wrong and also the wrong in the right. One sees dark in the light and light in the dark, death in birth and birth in death. It is a kind of double view of things.
When one has reached this stage, then reasoning has opened higher reasoning. No doubt, one's language will become gibberish to others, people will not understand it, they will be confused by what one says. To some it will be too simple, to others too subtle. Too simple to those who only hear words without meaning, too subtle to those who strive to understand the meaning and do not reach it.
The third sign is the feeling one has after failure. One will not feel such disappointment, and with success one will not feel such great joy. In adverse conditions one will not be so much disappointed, and in favourable conditions not so conceited. These continual changes we experience in this world: friends turning into enemies, love sometimes turning into hate, sense into senselessness, the little surprises we experience every day, things different from what we had expected, all these shocks are not felt so deeply. Life in the world is full of shocks, there is no end to it. At every turn we make we find some surprise, all the time there is something so new. When the soul is awakened we do not take the shocks so deeply; they come, but it does not hit us so deeply.
At the same time, in spite of that all, there is a deeper feeling. An advanced person is more susceptible to being hurt than the one who is not advanced. Because his heart becomes tender, he feels rapidly. He is a living person in dense earth. A rock does not feel much. This awakening of the soul gives fineness on one side and strength on the other side to sustain it.
Then there is another stage that develops after the awakening of the soul. That stage is the feeling for freedom, and that has to be carried out as a retirement. Of course, that is the one temptation, and a spiritual person regards it as temptation. An awakened soul no longer values the dream, and yet a spiritual person regards this retirement as a temptation. "On the path of retirement I shall still work, because that is the time to be serviceable", that is the thought when one is less selfish.
Now coming to the ultimate freedom of the soul, this freedom is gained by concentration, by meditation, by contemplation and by realization. What concentration is needed for the freedom of the soul? Concentration on the object which is prescribed by your spiritual teacher, that by the thought of that particular object you may be able to forget yourself for that moment. What contemplation is necessary? Contemplation on the thought "this, my limited self, is no longer my self, but it is God's instrument, God's temple which is made that the name of God be glorified". What meditation is requested? Meditation on the thought of God, on the Being of God, to be made in order to forget absolutely about one's limited self. And the realization is that then, whatever voice will come to you, is God's Voice, every guidance is God's guidance, every impulse a divine impulse, every action is done by God. It is in this way that the soul is made free and it is in the freedom of the soul that lies the purpose of life.