THE SOUL IS
LIKENED TO THE CATERPILLAR
As a caterpillar reflects all the beauty of colours that it sees and out of it turns itself into a butterfly, so is the soul. When in the angelic world it reflects the angelic beauty; when in the world of genius it reflects the jinn qualities, covering itself thereby with the form of a jinn; when in the world of man it reflects human qualities, manifesting itself, therefore, in the form of man. If the caterpillar is impressed by one form or by a number of forms of leaves and flowers and colours, it reflects them and it becomes them. Very often you will see that a caterpillar has the colour of its surroundings. The leaves or flowers, whatever is before it, it becomes that. It does not partake the colour and the form of trees and flowers which are at a distance, which it has not touched. The same is the condition of the soul. It partakes of the quality of all that it comes in contact with, its colour and perfume, reflecting it and in time becoming that which it reflects.
This shows to us that the mirror-quality of the heart does not only show when the soul is on the earth, but it shows it from the beginning of the soul's adventure towards manifestation. Therefore, the soul's captivity and freedom both come from itself. Kudsi, the great Persian poet has said
It is Thou Thyself who becomest a captive and again Thyself becomest free from captivity.
Both these things, captivity in this body of clay and liberation from this dense earth, the soul brings about itself, and it brings them about by one law, and that is the law of reflection. There may be different ideas, dogmas or speculations expressed by different wise people as to the soul's coming on earth, as to the soul's return from here. But the thoughtful souls, however different they may be in their conception of the divine law of nature, cannot deny for one single moment this principal law working as the most powerful factor in the soul's journey towards manifestation and in the soul's return to the goal.
Therefore, naturally a mystic thinks, "What is past is past, what is done is done. I do not trouble about it. What I am concerned with is to make the present moment as I wish it to be, and to make the road which leads to my destination in the future easy for me". On this principle the whole of mysticism has been based. The Sufi concerns himself little with what happened yesterday. Yes, if the knowledge of yesterday has a relation with the things of today, if that knowledge can help him to make life better, in that case alone he consults the past, but not for the sake of the past. As Omar Khayyam says,
Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be myself with yesterday's sev'n thousand years.
Which means: if I lived for seven thousand years in the past, what is it to me just now? The greatest problem that faces man is: today, just now. How can I make my life best for myself, for others? If he occupies himself with this science, there is not one single moment that he can spare. It will occupy his whole life to make the best of "just now". And after all it is "just now" which repeats, and it is "now" that makes the future.
Besides, it is the science of reflection, the study and practice of which brings a person to that attainment which is the seeking of every soul. As Zeb-un-Nissa, the Persian poetess says,
thou thinkest of the blooming rose
thou wilt become a
One might ask a question : Why does not a mosquito turn into a butterfly? For a mosquito also lives sometimes among beautiful plants and flowers. The answer is that the mosquito is not interested in listening, it is interested in speaking. It does not learn, it teaches. So it remains what it is. The caterpillar on the contrary is silent. It silently meditates, moves gently, quietly sits and meditates. That is why in the end it turns into a butterfly.
Question : Are there not two ways to live in the present : believing in the physical life and contemplating the eternal?
Answer : One can balance the spiritual and the physical life by being conscious of both; neither diving so deep in the eternal that one does not know what time it is, nor being involved in the physical so much that one is unaware of immortality. As there is night and day, so there is the change of consciousness from physical to spiritual and from spiritual to physical, just like action and repose. By keeping the balance between these two conditions a person lives a complete life.
Question : Why is it that one soul reflects the properties of a murderer and another soul those of a saint, both souls being equally divine?
Answer : As I have already said, the soul is likened to a caterpillar who first reflects and then becomes what it reflects. So it is with the murderer and the saint. A murderer reflects a murderer because he has gradually tuned himself to that reflection by trying to hurt and to do a little harm here and there, by trying to erase from his heart that sympathy, that kindness, that tenderness, by trying to be blind to that aspect of his own being; and by trying without feeling to hurt and harm others he has developed that way.
Often a young murderer is reflecting a thought from somebody either on this side or on the other side. Often innocent people are arrested like anarchists who had no enmity towards the person whom they have killed. It has only come as a reflection on their mind, projected by someone who was a bitter enemy to that person, and the anarchist has only become an instrument. But when one asks if he is responsible for it, the answer is yes; for he prepared his mind for that reflection.