By Hazrat Inayat Khan
Subtlety of nature is the sign of the intelligent. If a person takes the right direction he does good with this wealth of intelligence, but a person who is going in a wrong direction may abuse this great faculty. When someone who is subtle by nature is compared with the personality which is devoid of it, it is like the river and the mountain. The subtle personality is as pliable as running water, everything that comes before that personality is reflected in it as clearly as the image in the pure water. The rocklike personality, without subtlety, is like a mountain, it reflects nothing. Many admire plain speaking, but the reason is they lack understanding of fine subtlety. Can all things be put into words? Is there not anything more fine, more subtle than spoken words? The person who can read between the lines makes a book out of one letter. Subtlety of perception and subtlety of expression are the signs of the wise. Wise and foolish are distinguished by fineness on the part of the one and rigidness on the part of the other. A person devoid of subtlety wants truth to be turned into a stone; but the subtle one will turn even a stone into truth.
In order to acquire spiritual knowledge, receive inspiration, prepare one's heart for inner revelation, one must try to make one's mentality pliable like water rather than like a rock; for the further along the path of life's mystery a person will journey, the more subtle he will have to become in order to perceive and to express the mystery of life. God is a mystery, His knowledge is a mystery, life is a mystery, human nature is a mystery; in short, the depth of all knowledge is a mystery, even science or art.
All that is more mysterious is more deep. What all the prophets and masters have done in all ages is to express that mystery in words, in deeds, in thoughts, in feelings; but most of the mystery is expressed by them in silence. For then the mystery is in its place. To bring the mystery down to earth is like pulling down a king on to the ground from his throne; but allowing the mystery to remain in its own place, in the silent spheres, is like giving homage to the King to whom all homage is due.
Life's mysteries apart, in little things of everyday life the fewer words used, the more profitable it is. Do you think more words explain more? No, not at all. It is only nervousness on the part of those who wish to say a hundred words to explain a thing which can quite well be explained in two words; and on the part of the listener it is lack of intelligence when he wants a hundred words in order to understand something which can just as well be explained in one word. Many think that more words explain things better; but they do not know that mostly as many words as are spoken, so many veils are wrapped around the idea. In the end you go out by the same door through which you entered.
Respect, consideration, reverence, kindness, compassion and sympathy, forgiveness and gratefulness, all these virtues can be best adorned by subtlety of expression. One need not dance in thanksgiving; one word of thanks is quite sufficient. One need not cry out loudly, 'I sympathize with you, my dear friend!' One need not play drums and say, 'I have forgiven somebody!' Such things are fine, subtle; they are to be felt; no noise can express them. Noise only spoils their beauty and takes from their value. In spiritual ideals and thoughts subtlety is more needed than anything else. If a spiritual person were to bring his realizations into the market-place and dispute with everyone that came along about his beliefs and disbeliefs, where would he end?
What makes a spiritual person harmonize with all people in the world? The key to the art of conciliation which a spiritual person possesses is subtlety both in perception and expression. Is it lack of frankness, is it hypocrisy to be subtle? Not in the least. There are many people who are outspoken, always ready to tell the truth in a way which is like hitting another person on the head, and who proudly support their frankness by saying, 'I do not mind if it makes anybody sorry or angry, I only tell the truth.' If the truth is as hard as a hammer may truth never be spoken, may no one in the world follow such a truth!
Then where is that truth which is peace-giving, which is healing, which is comforting to every heart and soul, that truth which uplifts the soul, which is creative of harmony and beauty, where is that truth born? That truth is born in subtlety of intelligence in thought, speech, and action, of fineness which brings pleasure, comfort, beauty, harmony, and peace.
(Excerpted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art of Personality [The Sufi Message vol.3])
URL of Part 50: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--on-refining-the-personality-–-50/d/34592