Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The mystic's outlook on life
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


Mysticism is neither a faith or a belief, nor is it a principle or a dogma. A mystic is born; a certain temperament is mystical and mystical is a certain outlook on life. Many are confused by the word mystic, because mysticism cannot be explained in plain words.


To a mystic, impulse has divine significance. In every impulse, therefore, a mystic sees a divine direction. What people call free will is something that does not exist for a mystic. He sees one plan working and making its way towards a desired result, and every person, whether willingly or unwillingly, contributes towards the accomplishment of that plan. That which one contributes to this plan is considered by one to be free will, and by another accident. The one who feels, "this is my impulse, this is my idea, I must bring it into action", only knows of that idea from the moment it has manifested to his view. He, therefore, calls it free will. But from whence did that idea come to him? Where does impulse come from? It comes directly or indirectly from within. Sometimes it may seem to come from without, but its beginning is from within. Therefore, every impulse for a mystic is a divine impulse. But you might ask, "Why is not every impulse divine for everybody, since every impulse has its origin within?" Because everybody does not know it to be so. The divine part of the impulse is in knowing it. The moment you are conscious of the divine origin of the impulse, from that moment it is divine. Although at all times in life it has come from within, it is the fact of knowing it which makes it divine.


A mystic removes the barriers that stand between himself and another person by trying to look at life not only from his own point of view, but also from the point of view of another. All disputes and disagreement belong to misunderstanding between persons , and mostly people misunderstand because they have their fixed point of view and are not willing to move from it. This is a rigid condition of mind. The more dense a person, the more he is fixed in his own point of view. Therefore, it is easy to change the mind of an intelligent person, and most difficult to change the mind of a foolish person once it is fixed. It is the dense quality of the mind which becomes fixed on a certain idea, and that covers his eyes so that they cannot see from the point of view of another.


Many think that by looking at things from the point of view of another we lose our point of view. But I would rather lose my point of view if it was a wrong point of view. Why must one stick to one's point of view because it is one's own? And why is it one's own point of view? Are not all points of view the point of view of one and the same Spirit? As two eyes are needed to make the sight complete, and two ears are necessary to make the hearing complete, so it is the understanding of two points of view, two opposite points of view, which gives a fuller insight into life.


A mystic calls this unlearning . What we call learning is fixing ideas in our mind. Learning is rust, learning is not freeing the soul, learning is limiting the soul. By this I do not mean to say that learning has no place in life. I only mean to say that learning is not all that is needed in the spiritual path. There is something besides it, there is something beyond learning, and you can attain to it by unlearning. Learning is just like making knots of ideas, and the thread is not smooth, as long as the knots are there. They must be unraveled. The mind with knots is not capable of having a smooth circulation of truth; the ideas, once fixed in the mind, block it. A mystic, therefore, is willing to see from all points of view in order to make his knowledge clear. It is that willingness which is called unlearning. I will give you an example of it.


Once I was travelling in a ship, and there was a young Italian who was perhaps an atheist. Seeing me in a sort of religious robe, he thought I was a missionary preaching a certain faith. He began by saying to me, 'I do not believe in anything". By this affirmation he defended and protected himself. I said, "That is very nice". He continued saying, "I believe in eternal matter". I replied, "Your belief is not far from my belief. You believe in eternal matter, I believe in eternal spirit. It is the same thing. I am willing to take your word as long as you believe in the eternal. You call it matter, I call it spirit. What is the use of arguing over words? If you are pleased to call it matter, I am willing to accept it". From that moment we became friends, and he listened with great interest to truths that he would never have listened to. He parted by saying, "Your religion is my religion".


That is the idea of the mystic. He sees the superficiality of differences and their uselessness. They are only caused by a little ego, a little vanity, a little pride: "my argument is right, yours is wrong". That is all. The sense of understanding is one and the same in all of us and, if we are willing to understand, understanding is within our reach. Very often what happens is that we are not willing to understand, and then we do not understand. Mankind has a sort of stubbornness. A man goes against what he thinks comes from another person. And yet everything that is learned has come from another. He has not learned one word from himself; all he has learned is from others. Yet he calls it his argument, his thoughts, his view. There is no such thing; he has taken them from somewhere. It is accepting this fact which makes a mystic understand all and makes him a friend of all.


A mystic does not look at reasons as everybody sees them, because he sees that the first reason that comes to our mind is but a cover over another reason which is hidden behind it. He has patience, therefore, to wait until he has lifted the veil from the first reason and so saw the reason behind. But then again he sees that this reason, which was hidden behind the first reason, is more powerful, is a great reason, but a greater reason is still behind it. And so he goes from one reason to another, and he sees in reason nothing but a treachery to cover reality. As he goes further, penetrating the added walls of reason, he reaches a place where is the essence of reason. By touching the essence of reason he sees the reason in every good and bad thing.


Compare a mystic with an average person who argues and disputes and fights and quarrels over the first reason which is nothing but a cover. Compare the two. One is ready to form an opinion, to praise and to condemn; the other patiently waits until reality unfolds itself gradually. A mystic believes in the unknown and unseen; not only in the form of God, but the unknown that is to come, the unseen that is not yet seen. The other has no patience to wait until he knows the unknown, until he sees the unseen.


A mystic does not urge the knowledge of the unseen and the unknown upon another, but he sees the hand of the unknown working through all things. For instance, if a mystic feels the impulse to go out and walk towards the north, he thinks that there must be some purpose in it. He does not think that it is only an imagination, a foolish fancy, although the reason for it he does not know. He will go to the north and will try to find the purpose of it in the result that will come from his going there.


The whole life of the mystic is mapped out on this principle, and it is by this principle that he can come to the stage where his impulse becomes a voice from within that tells him to go here or there, to move or to sit. Therefore, while others are prepared to answer why they do anything or where they are going or what they wish to do, the mystic cannot answer, because he himself does not know it. And yet he knows more than the person who is ready to answer why he is going and what he is going to accomplish. For what does man know about what will come to him? He makes his program and plan, but he does not know what may follow.


Man proposes and God disposes. Many say this every day, and at the same time they make their programs and lay their plans. A mystic is not particular about it. He works on the plan which is laid out already; he knows that there is a plan, he may not know the plan in details. This tells us that the one who knows little knows most, and those who seem to know more, know the least.




The outlook of the mystic is that of a man standing on the top of a mountain, looking at the world from a great height. So the mystic looks upon all people as being not very different one from the other; they are all like children to him. You too see the same thing from the top of a mountain. All, tall and short, seem to be of the same size, they appear like little beings moving about. An average man is frightened of truth in the same way as a person who has never been on a great height gets frightened at the sight of the immensity of space. The truth is immense, and when a person reaches the top of understanding, he becomes frightened and does not want to look at it.


Many have told me, "Eastern philosophy interests us very much, but the conception of Nirwana is very frightening". I have answered, "Yes, it is frightening. For a person who is not accustomed to stand on the top of the mountain it is frightening. Truth is just the same. Truth is frightening, but truth is reality". Man is so fond of illusion that he, so to speak, revels in it. If someone is seeing an interesting dream and a person awakens him, he says, "O, let me sleep". He likes to look at his dream; he does not like to wake up to reality, because reality is not as interesting as the dream.


So among the seekers after truth you will find only one in a thousand who is courageous enough to look at the immensity of truth. But many take interest in the illusion, and out of curiosity they are glad to see a mental illusion, because it is different from the illusion of physical life, and they are apt to call this mysticism. But this is not mysticism.


No one can be a mystic and call himself a Christian mystic, a Jewish mystic or a Muslim mystic. For what is mysticism? Mysticism is something that erases from one's view the idea of separateness, and if a person claims to be this mystic or that mystic, he is not a mystic; he is only playing with a name.


People say that a mystic is someone who dreams and lives in the clouds, but my answer to this is that a real mystic stands on the earth, his head in heaven. It is not true that the wise man is not intellectual or not clever. The clever man is not wise, but the one who has the higher knowledge has no difficulty in having the knowledge of worldly things. It is the man, who has only the knowledge of worldly things, who has great difficulty in having the higher knowledge. Mr. Ford was very wise when he said to me, "If you had been a business man, I am sure that you would have been successful". Furthermore he said, "I have tried all my life to solve the problem which you have solved". This again gives us an insight into this idea that higher wisdom does not debar a person from having worldly wisdom, but worldly wisdom does not enable a person to have the higher wisdom.


As to the mystic's vision, people think that to see some colours or some spirits or some visions is mystical. But I do not think that mysticism can be restricted to these things, and those who see these things are not necessarily mystics. Besides, those who can see and whose vision is clear say so little about it. The mystic will be the last to claim that he sees or does wonderful things. His vision, his power diminishes as soon as he begins to feed his vanity by claiming to know or do things which others cannot do; for the main thing a mystic has to accomplish is to get rid of the false ego, and if he feeds it on claiming such things, he loses all his power, virtue and greatness.


To a mystic every person is a written letter, just like before an experienced physician a person's face is narrative of his condition. And yet, a mystic would never say to another person, "In this person I see this..." For the more he knows, the greater trust is put in him by God. He covers all that is to be covered; he only says all that is to be said. You will never hear a mystic say, "I understand your ways, I catch you". A mystic will know most and will act innocently. It is the ones who know little who make a fuss about their knowledge. The more a person knows, the less he shows it to the world. Do you think that a mystic is ready to correct people for their follies and to condemn them for their errors and to accuse them of their foolishness? He sees so much of errors and follies and foolishness that he never feels inclined to regard them. He just sees life in its different ways, he just sees the process that an individual passes through in his life. It is through mistakes and errors that one learns in the end, and a mystic never feels that he should condemn anyone for them. He only feels that it is natural. Some are going rapidly, others slowly. With foolishness it is just like with light and darkness. It is through darkness that the sun rises, and through ignorance wisdom will rise one day. A mystic, therefore, need not learn patience; he is taught patience by life from the beginning till the end. A mystic need not learn tolerance; his outlook gives him tolerance. He need not learn forgiveness; he cannot do anything but forgive.


Man loves complexity and calls it knowledge. A great many societies and institutes in the world call themselves occult, esoteric, psychic and by other names, knowing that everyone is interested in complexity. They cover the truth and, instead of covering it with one cover, they cover it with a thousand covers to make it more interesting. There was a custom in ancient times that, when people went to worship and asked, "How shall we worship, what is the manner of worship?", the priest said, "How far do you live from the shrine? " And when they said, "Two miles", he answered, "Come on foot to the shrine and walk around it a hundred times before entering". He gave them a good exercise before they were allowed to enter. The same thing they do even today. When a person says, "I want to see the truth", but wants to look for truth in complexity, they cover truth under a thousand covers and then they give him the problem to solve. Are there not many interested in the Mahatmas of the Himalayas, are there not many seeking for holy souls in remote places of Persia, many who look for a master in the centre of Australia? Perhaps next year an article will appear that a great soul is found in Siberia. What is it all? It is the love of complexity, funny notions, strange ideas which lead souls no further.


Therefore, a mystic very often appears to be simple, because sincerity makes him feel inclined to put truth in simple language and simple ideas and, because people value complexity, they think that what he says is very simple and that it is something they have always known, that it is nothing new. But I repeat that, as Solomon has said, there is nothing new under the sun. Truth belongs to the soul, the soul knows it and, as soon as truth is spoken, the soul happens to know it; it is not new, it is not foreign to the soul. If a person says, "This is something I have already known", I say that, even if the soul has known it, it is never repeated too often. The great saints of the East have repeated the phrase "God is One" perhaps a million times in their lives. Do you think that they were so foolish as not to understand the meaning of it by saying it once? Why do they repeat it a million times? The reason is that it is never enough. We live in the midst of illusion from morning till evening when we go to sleep. What we do not know is the illusion in which we are from morning till evening. It is not the truth that we do not know; if we know anything fully it is truth. The mystic, therefore, instead of learning truth, instead of looking for truth, wishes to maintain truth. He wishes to cling to the idea of truth, to keep the vision of truth before him lest it may be covered by the thousand veils of illusion.


One may ask, "Does a mystic make any effort to reach the higher realization?" Yes, it is an art which is taught from teacher to pupil. So from one person to another this art is handed down from ages. But one might think: If truth is within oneself, why is there a necessity of such an art? Art is not nature. Animals and birds do not need an art. They are happy, peaceful, they are innocent and really spiritual. Yes, it is true, but they live in nature, their life is natural. We live far away from nature. We have made our own artificial world to live in, and that is why we require an art to come out of it. I do not mean to say that we must go out of life or that we must not have anything to do with life in order to be mystics. But we must practise that art by which we get in touch with reality.


That art is in the first place concentration. By concentration I do not mean closing the eyes and sitting in the church on Sunday. Many know how to close their eyes and sit there, and their minds wander about especially at that time when they close their eyes. Concentration means that every atom of the body and of the mind is centered in one spot.

The next stage is contemplation. That is to be able to retain an idea that raises one's consciousness from the dense world.

The third stage is meditation, and that is to purify oneself, to free oneself, and to open oneself to the light of truth, that it may abide in one's spirit.

The fourth step is realization. Then the mystic no longer is the knower of truth, but truth itself.




Question: Would you please repeat once more the stages of concentration?

Answer: Concentration is fixing the mind on a certain form.
Contemplation is centering the mind on a certain idea.
Meditation is receiving, by opening one's self to the light of truth.
Realization is: not knowing but being truth itself.


Question: Is spirituality dependent upon knowing, upon the individual entity?

Answer: The creation was intended for the purpose that, being an individual entity, the Spirit might realize perfection. That was the condition. For instance, the spirit of humor was waiting to enjoy itself. It, therefore, went to see a comedy. Struck by the comedy that spirit manifested itself, and in the manifestation of mirth that spirit enjoyed itself. That was the fulfilment of the purpose of that spirit, which was silent before it went to see the comedy.

The whole idea of this manifestation into separate entities is for this purpose that the Spirit may realize to perfection the all-ness or the absolute aspect of its Being.




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