Revelation when awake and when
(A lecture given in Brussels, 24 May, 1924)
It wants a certain amount of spiritual progress to believe that there is such a thing as revelation. Life is revealing, its nature is revealing, and so is God. Therefore, in the Persian language God is called Khuda which means Self-revealing. All science and art and culture known to man has originally come by revelation, and not only originally but even today every invention, every improvement in science and art comes by revelation. Man does not learn art or science by study alone. He learns, but there is much that he learns by revelation. A scientist, an artist who has only learned by study is not a true scientist or an artist; he is only a machine. No doubt, modern life seems to have covered that revelation side of culture by pushing forward that culture which is mechanical. To put this in plainer words, a person does not only learn by his own study but he also draws, so to speak, knowledge from the multitude. For instance, a child does not only inherit his father's or his ancestors' qualities, but also the qualities of his nation. If this is true then it can also be true that man inherits the qualities of his race and also that he inherits the qualities of the whole human race. Therefore, if one realized profoundly that storehouse of knowledge that exists behind this veil, one will find that one has a right to this heritage. This gives one a key to understand the secret of life: that knowledge is not only gained from outside but also from within. Knowledge that one learns from outside life one calls learning, but the knowledge that one draws from within is that knowledge which is called revelation.
There are different degrees of revelation. First one sees in every person, to a smaller or greater extent, a capacity of impression. Every person feels more or less in the presence of a new person he meets, whether to trust or not to trust that person. If you ask him, "What makes you think like this?", he has not always a reason to tell you, but he can tell you, "I feel that way". Women are sometimes more impressionable than men. The reason is that a woman by nature is responsive. Of two men the more responsive is the more impressionable one. But besides the impression of a person there are some who easily get an impression of a place. In any place where they walk or sit they feel whether there is something agreeable or disagreeable, if there has happened something sad or something joyful. There are some so impressionable that they can see not only the condition of a few years back, but even of many years back. And very often in the East they take an impressionable person to find where they can easily get water. That person begins to feel where the water is closest, and after having dug in that place they find that it is true. This is not a great spiritual power, but an ordinary simple thing of everyday life, because impression only depends upon that responsive attitude, and a person gets an impression from everything that he responds to.
Going a little further one finds another aspect of revelation and this may be call intuition. Before beginning to start a business or a certain affair one feels a kind of feeling. One may go against it, one may not believe in it, but one has a feeling, "I may not have success in this". Or when joining forces with another person in business, one might feel that it may not endure long. Also sometimes one feels, "I might see a friend, a particular friend", and then he sees that the friend has come to see him without any arrangement between them. It is intuition. There are many intuitive people, but they do not know it, because intuition is the portion of a person with gentle feelings.
As one goes a little further into the subject one finds that there is another aspect of it, and that aspect is vision. A vision is more clear in the sleeping state than in the waking state. The reason is that when a person is asleep he lives in a world of his own, but when a person is awake he is partly in that world, but mostly in the outer world. Every phenomenon wants accommodation. It is not only that sound is audible, but it is also the ears that make it possible to hear the sound. The mind is the accommodation for receiving impressions, just as the ears are the accommodation for receiving the sound. Therefore a natural state of sleep is like a profound concentration, like a deep meditation, and what comes like a dream has a significance in it.
One might ask, "Are all dreams significant of something?" Yes, everything in the world has a significance. Why should the dream not have its significance? There is nothing without meaning. It is our lack of understanding of its meaning that keeps us in darkness. But one might say, "There are sometimes quite meaningless dreams that one sees. What about that?" It is the condition of the mind. If the condition of the mind is not harmonious, if the rhythm of the mind is not regular, then the real thing is so mixed up that you yourself cannot read it. It is just like a letter written in the dark, so that the person did not see it while writing. But at the same time it is a letter, written, it has an idea behind it. Even if the very person who has written it in a dark room may not be able to read it, yet it is a letter. When a person cannot understand the meaning of his dream, it is not that his dream has no significance. It only means that his letter has become so mixed up that he cannot read his own letter.
But the most interesting thing to study in the dream is its symbolical expression. As subtle as is the mentality of a person, so symbolical will be his dream. The dreams of poets and prophets have been so symbolical that they are just like a beautifully written novel. Sometimes the symbology is so subtle that it seems an art in itself, nature's art that produces such a dream. No doubt if a simple person has a silly dream, it is not a thing to be surprised at.
Furthermore one reads from the dream something of the past, of the present, of the future. One might ask, "When does one see the past and when the future?" When a person's mind is focused on the past he sees the past, when on the future he sees the future. If his mind is concerned with the present he sees the present.
A still greater phenomenon of the dream is that sometimes a dream proves to be a medium of communication between two souls, and this communication is not limited to this world but it extends even to the next world.
There is another side of revelation which is experienced only by a poet, a musician, a philosopher, a thinker. This is called inspiration. A person may try to write a piece of music perhaps for a whole year and may not succeed in what he wanted to create, and there might come in one moment a whole symphony that the writer has no power to alter. It is perfect in itself. By altering it he would commit a fault against the harmony of the inner life, because it is given to him as something already made. No real poet, no real composer, no true thinker will deny for one moment that this is his own experience. It seems that he cannot create these things from his brain, that there is a factory already creating them. Through his communication with this factory he gets things ready-made. Once a mystic asked a poet who had written a most beautiful poem and had brought it to show it to him, "Will you kindly explain to me the meaning of a certain line in that poem?" The radiance of the poet's face became dim, for he had not thought about it, and after having seen the line he found that he himself did not know the meaning. The mystic said, "You need not trouble about it, it is this which is called inspiration".
It is this phenomenon that makes the creative soul, like that of a poet, a prophet, a composer, bow his head to something high, to something beyond comprehension. Until a poet, an artist or a thinker has come to this stage when his own creation surprises him so much that he no longer can own his creation, he has not really been a real genius. Besides, inspiration does not want pleading. The diamond does not want bugles and trumpets to call it a diamond; its light calls it a diamond. And so is true inspiration. The great composers, the poets who have written really inspirational things, the world will never be tired of. After thousands of years what they have written will still be alive and will still make the same impression upon the world.
When we come further than this we find the highest aspect of revelation which alone can be called revelation. It comes from within. It makes the heart self-revealing. It is just like a new birth of the soul. It is just like the wakening of the heart. When such a time has begun in a person, he begins to feel communication with all things and all beings. Before he has spoken one word with a person he meets, he begins to communicate with his soul. Before he has asked anyone a question, the soul begins to tell its own history. Every person stands before him as an open letter, and every object before him is like an open book. No longer then exists in that person that continual why that you see in many people. that why is no longer there, because he finds the answer to every question in himself. as long as that answer is not created, with all the learning that exists in the world and has been taught to man, that continual why will exist.
Now the question arises how one arrives at this revelation. The answer is that there is nothing in the whole universe that is not to be found in man, if only he cares to discover it. But if he will not discover it, no one will give it to him, for truth is not learned, truth is discovered. It is with this belief that the sages of the East went into the solitude and sat in their meditations in order to give that revelation an opportunity to come up, to arise. No doubt, as life is at the present time, today one has hardly time to give to such solitudes. But that does not mean that one must remain ignorant of the best that is in oneself. For when we compare with this great bliss, which may be called revelation, all other treasures of the earth - they cannot be compared. And, therefore, anything that occupies one in earning the things of the world cannot be so important that one should sacrifice that privilege of having revelation.
Considering this the Sufi movement gives facility to those who wish to try the path of meditation. There is no pretence on the part of this movement of teaching anyone, for God alone is the Teacher, and God alone can teach. It is by the grace of God that revelation comes and not by the teaching of man. The service that man can render to his brother is in helping him to prepare for that bliss which can only come by the grace of God..