EXPLAINED BY THE PHENOMENON OF REFLECTION
There are many teachings, doctrines, speculations and ideas as to the hereafter to be found, but if there is anything that could explain the nature and the character of the hereafter, it is one word and that is reflection. From whatever point of view one looks at it, it is one thing and that is reflection, either from the point of view of the one who believes in heaven and hell after death or from the point of view of the one who believes in reincarnation which follows after death. For there is not one place made like a town for the ones who have done good deeds so that all the good people should be in one town which is called Heaven or Paradise, and another town for the ones who have been sentenced to the other place.
In the first place each individual has his own way of looking at life and according to his attitude towards life, according to his outlook on life there is his hereafter. Therefore, the heaven of one person cannot be the heaven of another, neither can the hell of one person be the hell of another person. As there are different ideals of different people, so there is a peculiar world of every person. And what is that world? That world is his spirit (Hazrat Inayat has explained 'spirit' as being the soul with the mind). And what does that world contain? That world contains all that the spirit contains.
The soul is likened to a photographic plate. A photographic plate may contain the reflection of one person or it may contain a reflection of a group or a view of thousands of souls. It is capable of accommodating in itself the reflection of a world before it. So is the soul. "Then - one may say - what is the hereafter?" The hereafter of each one is what his soul contains. If his soul contains a heaven, the hereafter is heaven; if the soul contains something else, then the hereafter is that.
But then one might say, "Is it not the soul which comes as a reincarnation?" Yes, a soul; certainly a soul comes. But what soul, which soul? A soul which has a reflection in it. It is that reflection which is its reincarnation. But then one might ask a question: Does this not make everything so unreal, just like the play of shadows? But is it not that? If it is not the play of shadows, then what is it? If man finds reality in unreality, if that is consoling for him, he may console himself for some few days. But unreality is unreality. Unreality will not prove satisfactory to the end, because satisfaction lies in the knowledge of truth. For the time being, if unreality satisfies one - to think that this is real - one may continue to think in the same way, but it must be said that in the end this will not prove to be real. In order to avoid future disappointment one must find it out soon in one's life, if one is capable of grasping and then assimilating the ultimate truth.
What is the condition of the soul that experiences the conditions of heaven and hell in the hereafter? The condition of the soul is that it is surrounded by what it has collected. As Christ has said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also", so whatever the soul has treasured in this life, it is that which is the future of that soul.
One might ask what difference there is between these two distinct ideas: that the soul goes on in the wheel of incarnations, going from one thing to another, or that after death the soul experiences heaven or hell, and so it goes on toward God. There is only the difference of two different ways of looking at this one particular soul. The one who calls personality the soul sees that personality continuing from one condition to another. That personality which he has once seen has not ceased to exist in the world but it is going on with its reflections, repeatedly one after another. When one considers that personality as the soul, one calls it the chain of several reincarnations, one after the other. The other one who sees the soul as independent of personality, who considers personality as the garb of the soul but not the soul itself, then sees the actual condition of that ray of divine Intelligence which has come into the world as a soul. He sees its projecting outward and withdrawing inward. He understands this projecting as manifestation and its withdrawing as returning to the goal.
But one might say, "Is there not anything of that soul left to go on? That soul which has journeyed to the goal certainly left something behind?" When the body is left in the earth something has become of this body. Either this body has been eaten by an animal and that animal's being has become at one with this body, or several insects have eaten it and through them it has manifested. The body has reached to some result just the same, but at the same time we do not consider this body as the person. We say that it was the body of that person; that person has gone away. And, therefore, we do not take into account what has become of that body. But if we study and analyse the different conditions the body has gone through, we find that it has been able to give food to different creatures and different objects, manure for plants and flowers, and directly or indirectly it has reached the animals, the birds. Besides, the little lives that have been created from it, blown by the wind, have reached far and have been breathed by many and have been absorbed in the breath or in food or in water by many beings. If we look at it that way we shall find that nothing that has been once born has been entirely lost. It has just been changed, and that change has put it to a new life. Therefore, death has been nothing but a kind of illusion to our eyes, and behind this illusion something has been accomplished towards the continuance of life.
Then we come to what we call the world of the mind, of personality. The personality is another garb of the soul. This also goes on. Just as the body goes on turning into a thousand things, so does the personality. It is either swallowed by one or partaken of by many: wayfarers coming from the source and arriving at manifestation, showing at the same time the same personality, for it is the same personality. The caterpillar is representative of the flower, of the tree, of the plant that it has absorbed in itself. The caterpillar is the reincarnation of that which it has taken in itself, and yet the caterpillar is itself an entity which is known to us as it appears to be. A personality representing a finished person certainly has absorbed in it that which it is reflecting, in other words, that which it has taken in itself, which has been projected upon it, which it has borrowed. And it is of that personality that it may claim to be the reincarnation.
But then we come to the soul around which the body was a cover and the personality was a cover. It is just a divine ray, when we recognize the ray as a soul, which is difficult for every mind to grasp. But when intuition, inspiration permits a mind to grasp it clearly, then he sees a soul, not a personality; not a body but a soul, an independent entity by itself, as an angel, a jinn and even, passing through those conditions, something that is arriving at its origin which is the only purpose that is at the bottom of its heart.
As the seer says, this whole manifestation before us is a play of shadows; it continues for the night and in the morning all is over. One might ask, "If that is the condition, then what are we supposed to do? By considering it unreal we do not seem to arrive at anything, but at the same time by not considering it unreal we stay in the unreal and we do not open our eyes to the real". The idea, therefore, is to make the best of the world which is unreal, and at the same time to hold fast with both hands the knowledge of reality which alone is the saviour in which we find our liberation.
Verily, truth is inspiring and truth alone will save.
Question : How do you explain the mummifying of a dead body?
Answer : Well, I do not see any particular aim in it. But I think that man uses his artificial ways in order to deprive nature from playing its own part. Man's body is borrowed from nature. It is just to pay the debt back.
Question : What connection has the mind to the mummy?
Answer : The mind has to a certain extent attachment to the body, and even after having passed from here it somehow or other feels attracted to it. But the higher the soul the less it is attracted, and therefore it is better to rise above the earthly things in one's own life during one's lifetime.
Question : Is each soul an individual ray, or has one ray more than one soul in it, like a group-soul?
Answer : Even the ordinary word individuality has a certain illusion in it. For instance, man thinks his body separate from everybody else. He sees that the body is the sign that he is an individual, and at the same time each atom of his body has an individual and exclusive life. Every blood cell has its exclusive life; it has its illness, it has its death and birth. It is very interesting to see in blood research how every blood cell is a living being and that it can die, that it can be ill and that it can cause death to the other blood cells also. No doubt, this cover of the body hides this from our eyes, and so far as we can see, we see that this body is individual. But how many individuals are there within us?
Besides, a family also has a kind of individual significance; a country, a nation has a kind of individual appearance; a world, a planet is a kind of individual. And yet, as every cell of the body makes a part of the body, so we all make a part of a city and all the cities make a part of the world, and a planet makes a part of the cosmos. What is the individual? There is One Individual. All else which we can see, for the moment we may call it an individual; when we no longer see it, we may no longer call it so. When we see an entity standing remote, exclusive, separate, we call it an individual, but it is owing to our eyes that we see it separate. There is a time that we do not see it as a separate entity. We see it linked up with all else that exists. Therefore, naturally a Sufi, after observing life keenly, arrives at seeing One Individual, and he sees the Whole Being reflected in One Individual. It is toward that idea that we have to develop.
Question : Can personality be regarded as a picture which the soul projects in order to manifest to the outer world?
Answer : I would say that personality is a picture which the soul reflects in order to manifest on that design. It is something of which the soul partakes. For instance, a person went on a journey and on the way he found snow and he was covered with snow. Then he came in a place where it was dry, but at the same time he had brought the snow with him. So it is with the manifesting soul. The soul which is manifesting has brought with it a personality. It is that personality which is now designing his destiny in the physical world, which is now building his form in this physical world. Therefore, if one has to give a name to something which the soul has already brought one can give it, but the soul originally does not start with a personality. It starts as a divine ray.
Question : The soul, as a separate divine ray, does it remain separate during the vivifying of different reincarnations or ..........
Answer : A new ray vivifies each incarnation, for the action of the soul is not to go out and then to come back halfway and then to come forward again. Neither is the action of the breath that. The action of the soul is the same as the action of the breath: it goes out fully and it is drawn in fully. Each breath must touch the innermost of one's being in order to exist, for life is impossible without being charged every moment by the innermost spirit. Every breath that a person takes touches the very depth of his spirit, and it would not be possible for anyone to live if the breath did not touch the depth of life. Therefore, we may think that it is nourishment or food or outward things which keep us alive, but it is really the life of God which we take in at every moment with each breath.
Question : Is the personality of which you speak the same as the deeds and thoughts continuing in the hereafter?
Answer : Certainly it is, but at the same time you can look at it from a different point of view. There are two points of view: one is that a body remains with us as we go on in life, and the other is that by cutting the nails or the hair a part of the body is separated. That part which is separated is not lost, it is not destroyed, but one does not think about where it has gone and what has become of it. But something has become of it. And so it is with every thought and every feeling. Sometimes thoughts become elementals. They become living beings, they become as living creatures. They work for you or against you. If that is true, then it is the same with different parts of one's body. Sometimes with people wounded in the war - hands cut off, fingers gone - that part which is gone, the person does not think about it. But that part is utilised by nature too, that part is existing somewhere.
The world is a place where nothing is lost; it is continuing its work, it is only changed. A finger, a leg cut off is going on, and so is every thought that has perhaps become separated from one's mind. It has gone in the spheres, it is still continuing its life. As parents find that their children live after them continuing their life, so every thought and feeling is also continuing its own life in the mind sphere. But at the same time, having lost one finger or leg, one has not lost one's body, one still lives. And so the thought or feeling going out, man has not lost his personality. That personality is making his hereafter.
Question : As every soul is a new soul, a new ray of God, then the expression "an old soul" is not true?
Answer : What really happens is that instead of calling it an old personality, people call it an old soul. But we must always understand it as an old personality, because the soul as we know it is garbed under a personality. Therefore, in its ordinary sense it is the personality which we generally call soul. In that sense we may say 'old soul', but really it is 'old personality'.
( The following passage, which might be an answer to a non recorded question)
Answer : What is done with the body after death is different from what is done with the personality that survives. The body, being a substance, is eaten and absorbed; but the personality, being a picture, is reflected in the mind world. Therefore, as a reflection of a person on a photographic plate does not rob the person of his existence, so the reflection fallen upon a soul from a soul does not rob that soul of its personality. The personality continues to journey towards the goal through the necessary process. It is its reflection =which builds another personality on the same design, which is known as reincarnation.
Then the question arises: is there any connection between these two personalities? Certainly, like attracts like. If in the plane of the genius a sympathetic link is established between two souls, it continues to exist. In this way it is natural if the spirit of Shakespeare continues to inspire the Shakespeare personality on earth. The question if there can be more than one incarnation of the same person at the same time may be answered: yes, a person can have many pictures, so there can be many reflections of one personality manifested on the earth.