By Hazrat Inayat Khan
The process of going from limitation to perfection is called mysticism. Mysticism means developing from limitation to perfection. All pain and failure belong to limitation. All pleasure and success belong to perfection. In one's own surroundings, one will find that those who are unhappy and dissatisfied with life and who make others unhappy, are those who are more limited. Those who can help themselves and help others, who are happy and bring pleasure into the lives of others, are nearer to perfection.
When dervishes, who sometimes have patched sleeves or are scantly clad, who sometimes have food and sometimes not, address one another, they say, 'O King of Kings, O Emperor of Emperors.' It is the consciousness of what is king or emperor, which is before them. The boundary of their kingdom is not limited. The whole universe is their kingdom. It is in this way that a soul proceeds towards perfection, by opening the consciousness and raising it higher. When the soul evolves spiritually, it rises to a height where it sees a wider horizon; therefore its possession becomes greater […]
There are two different ways, two different angles from which one should look at perfection. One way is likened to a perpendicular line and the other to a horizontal line. The way, which is likened to a perpendicular line, is the reaching of the knowledge within. How does one reach this knowledge? First of all by concentration one reaches the knowledge within, which means one, is able to see concretely and to be conscious of something, which is apart from one's physical body. A person may be conscious of a poem, a word, a picture, an idea or something, and if he can be so conscious of it that he can lose the consciousness of his limited body for a moment, that is the first step.
Although it seems very easy, it is not so easy. When a person begins to do it, no sooner does he close his eyes in order to concentrate than a thousand things come before him. Also his physical body becomes restive. It says, 'This person is not conscious of me!' And then he gets nervous and twists and turns in order to be conscious of the body. The body does not like a person to be unconscious of it. It is like a dog or a cat; it likes one to take notice of it. Then a kind of nervous action arises in the body. It feels like moving, turning, scratching, or something. As soon as one wants to discipline the body, the body does not want to accept discipline.
The second stage is that instead of being conscious of a thought, one is conscious of a feeling, which is wider still; because thought is a form, and the mind even sees the form. But the feeling has no form, therefore to fix one's mind on a feeling and to keep it with the intention of keeping it, is not an easy thing. If once a person has done it and has not given in to the restiveness of mind, then he certainly feels uplifted.
This is the boundary of human progress and further than that is divine progress. What is divine progress? When one goes further still, then instead of being active one becomes passive. It is a state of consciousness, to be passive. There one does not need concentration, what one needs there is meditation. There one gets in touch with that power which is audible and visible within one and of which one is yet ignorant; that power, which is, busy moving towards the materialization of its intended object.
Once one comes into contact with this experience, one can no longer say in later life that there is such a thing as an accident. Then one will see that all that happens is destined and prepared, when one catches it in its preparatory condition before it has manifested on the earthly plane.
And if one goes further, there is consciousness in its aspect of pure intelligence. It is knowing and yet knowing nothing. And knowing nothing means knowing all things. Because it is the knowing of things that blunts the faculty of knowledge. In other words, when a person is looking in a mirror, his reflection covers the mirror and in that mirror nothing else can be reflected. Therefore when the consciousness is conscious of anything, it is blunted. At that moment it is blunted, or in other words it is covered by something that it is conscious of. The moment that cover is taken away, it is its own self, it is pure intelligence, it is pure spirit. In that condition its power, life, magnetism, force, its capacity, are much greater, incomparably greater than one can imagine. What it is cannot be explained except that by the help of meditation one reaches that condition. And if one goes higher still, it is not even consciousness; it is a kind of omniscient condition, which is the sign of inner perfection.
This is one direction of progress. There is another direction of progress; that is to see oneself reflected in another. When one is friends with another person, naturally one's sympathy, love, friendship, make one see oneself in the other, and this gives the inclination to sacrifice. No one will sacrifice for another except when he is oneself. If this feeling develops it extends further, not only with the friend, with the neighbour, but with the stranger, with the beast and bird and insect; one is in atonement with all living beings, and it gives one as much insight into another as the other person has into himself. One knows as much about him as he knows, even more. This is the simplest phenomenon of this consciousness; not to work wonders. It brings a quick proof that one knows as much about another person as he knows himself.
But there is another, moral proof; that one becomes friends with the wise and foolish, with the virtuous and wicked, more and more, as if one attracted them. One cannot help it. Sympathy is so powerful that even enemies are melted sooner or later. It is not just a tale that Daniel was sent to the mountain cave and the lions were tamed. In order to see this phenomenon one need not go to the mountains. In this world there are worse than lions: good natures and bad natures, possible and impossible people, and if one can subdue them, one has accomplished something; for it requires a greater power than calming lions. One can think of different ideas: agitated ones, antagonistic ones, blunted ones, ignorant ones, ideas full of falsehood or jealousy; how many swords and poisons there are in this world! And it is only one power, the power of one's sympathy that assimilates all poisonous influences. It takes away their poison and it does not hurt oneself. One can sooner or later purify them, revivify them, melt them, mold them, and direct them towards the purpose of life.
The world seeks complexity. If I were to give lectures upon how to get magnetism in order to make people listen to you, and in order to draw them to you; if I were to give twenty exercises for doing these things, it might mean great success for me. But if I tell you simple things like this, that it is the deepening of your sympathy, the awakening of that sympathetic spirit in you which is every power and magnetism, and the expansion of which means spiritual unfoldment, then there will be few to understand. For human beings do not want simple teaching, they want complexity.
And then there is another stage of expansion, and that is trying to look at everything from another's point of view also, trying to think also as the other person thinks. This is not an easy thing because from one's childhood one learns to think so that one stands upon one's own thought. One does not move to another's thought. The very fact that one has a thought oneself keeps one to it. It is therefore a sign of expansion to be able to see from the child's point of view, or from the point of view of the foolish person, how he looks at things. And the most interesting thing is that it brings one to being tolerant and patient. In this way one extends one's knowledge to a degree that no reading can give. Then one begins to receive from all sources; one will attract knowledge from every plane as soon as the mind becomes so pliable that it does not only stick to its own point of view.
This process is called unlearning. If you say of a certain man, 'This is not a nice person,' although you may be quite wrong the general tendency is to stick to that idea. But the greater evolution is to see from that man's point of view also. He has a reason for being as he is. Maybe he is too un-evolved to see, or he is more evolved and less interested in the other person. Yet, by seeing from his point of view you do not lose your own. Your point of view is still there; but the other point of view is added to yours, therefore your knowledge becomes greater. It means a greater stretching of the heart and sometimes the heart feels pain when you stretch it. But by stretching the heart and by making it larger and larger, you turn your heart into the sacred Book.
And the third aspect is to feel another person. A man is very often different from what he appears and from what he thinks. Sometimes he acts and speaks quite differently from his feelings; and if your feelings can know the feelings of another, this is a high aspect. You become a highly evolved personality when the feelings of another can tell you much more than his words and actions can; and sometimes they can give you quite a different opinion of a person from what you have had if you had only seen him and heard him speak. When one has arrived at this point, human evolution ends and divine evolution begins. Then no doubt one gets insight into what happens in the spirit of man; if he is going to succeed or not, if he is going to be happy or not, or what he is going to accomplish; because there is something going on within that person, preparing his plan of tomorrow. You begin to touch it and begin to get the impression of it, and that impression is as clear sometimes as anything visible and audible could be.
If you go further then you unite with everything. In this consciousness distance is no longer distance. If you can extend your consciousness so that your consciousness touches the consciousness of another, then not only the thoughts of that person but his whole spirit are reflected in your spirit. Space does not matter. Your consciousness can touch every part of the world and every person, at whatever distance he may be.
And if you go still further, then you can only realize that you are connected with all beings. That there is nothing and no one who is divided or separate from you, and that you are not only connected by chains with those you love, but with all those you have known and do not know – connected by a consciousness which binds you faster than any chains. Naturally one then begins to see the law working in nature. One begins to see that the whole universe is a mechanism working towards a certain purpose. Therefore the right one and the wrong one, the good and the bad, are all bringing about one desired result, by wrong power and by right power, a result meant to be, which the purpose of life is.
Then naturally one holds oneself back from that dogmatic spirit: 'you are wrong' and 'you are right,' and comes to the spirit of the sage: saying nothing, knowing all, doing all, suffering all things. This makes one the friend of all and the servant of all. And with all the realizations of the mystical truth and spiritual attainment, what one realizes is one thing, the only thing worthwhile, and that is to be of some little use to one's fellow men.
Excerpted from Mental Purification and Healing, by Hazrat Inayat Khan [“The Sufi Message”, vol. 1V
URL of Part 56: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--56--more-on-mental-purification/d/35691