By Hazrat Inayat Khan
Some believe that art is inferior to nature. But that is not so. Art completes nature. In art there is something divine, for it is God Himself who through man completes the beauty of nature, and this is called art. In other words, art is not only an imitation of nature, art is an improvement upon nature, be it painting, drawing, poetry, or music. But the best of all arts is the art of personality. This must be learned, in order to use it in every walk of life. It is not necessary for every man to become a musician, nor is it necessary to become a painter or an architect. But it is necessary for every man to learn the art of personality. Someone once came to me and said with great pride and satisfaction, 'I was brought up by my parents just like a plant in the forest, growing naturally.' I answered, 'It is a pity. If your parents wanted you to grow naturally they should have kept you in the forest. It is a pity that you are in the midst of the world. The world is made by art. In order to be in the world you need to know the art of personality.'
Very few of us distinguish between individuality and personality. Individuality is that which we brought with us at our birth. We are born as a separate entity. That itself makes us individual. Individuality is the soul's consciousness of its oneness, in spite of its various belongings with which it still identifies itself; and that individuality can be seen in the child which says, 'No, I don't want this toy, I want that other toy.' The moment the soul says 'I' it becomes conscious of individuality in spite of having different organs in the body and different thoughts which direct these organs. Then the tendency is to attribute to oneself all the different parts while realizing that one is one in spite of being many, or in other words, in spite of being composed of many aspects.
Personality is an improvement on individuality. In becoming a person the beauty which is hidden in an individual develops itself, and it is the development of the individuality which is personality. Individuality is nature, whereas personality is art. It is something that is acquired or gained. It has not come with us.
Therefore, in ancient times people had to learn and practice the art of personality as part of their education. That was the ancient culture. Today a person has to pass examinations and as long as he has got a degree he thinks he is safe, he thinks he can go into the world and will get on. But such an external qualification is not enough. It is the inner qualification, the inner culture, that counts and it can only be obtained by the development of personality.
How does one make use of personality? In business the salesman makes a success according to the power of his magnetism. His influence depends entirely on his personality. It is his personality that attracts, whether he goes to a shop or to other business. It is his personality which stands out and which gives one the idea of buying or selling or dealing with him. And the lack of this makes one go away never to come back.
A statesman, a politician, a teacher, a solicitor, a barrister, a lawyer, all require personality. A physician may be a great physician, a highly qualified one, and yet if his personality is not agreeable, if he is rude or unsympathetic, however many patients he may have his medicines will make them feel bad and his personality will make them feel worse. And very often a doctor with a sympathetic personality, a good manner, and wisdom, can cure a patient by a word of consolation before he has given him any medicine. It is the same with a barrister, a lawyer. He can dishearten a client in one visit. And when a person has lost courage and hope then naturally there is little chance of being successful. […] In all walks of life what counts is the personality. The one whose personality is against him has the world against him.
There are four categories of personality. The first personality is likened to a date; the next is like a walnut, the third like a pomegranate, and the fourth like a grape.
The date-like personality is soft outside and hard inside. As soon as one puts a date into one's mouth and feels the stone between the teeth one has a horror of it. And then there is another personality which is walnut-like. There is a hard shell, hard to penetrate, but when you know the person more it is like breaking the shell, and finding a nut which is soft. Thirdly there is a pomegranate personality. It is hard outside and hard inside. The pomegranate is hard, the skin is hard, the seed inside is hard too. Lastly there is the grape-like personality which is soft outside and soft inside. You will always find these four classes of persons.
The one whose personality is soft outside and hard inside will at once attract people. But they will not stay with him. They will stay for some time, but then they leave him. Then they know him and turn away from him.
The personality who is hard outside and soft inside is repellent at first, but in the end you will become his friend. That is why he does not make so many friends. You can only understand this man when you reach his inner being. And the personality who is hard outside and hard inside is isolated in the world. This is no place for him. Everyone will want to keep away from him, and then after some time he will find himself in difficulties. But the one whose personality is soft outside and soft inside will naturally be most magnetic. The grape is the most attractive fruit.
At every stage in the evolution of man there is a different kind of magnetism. There are four different aspects of magnetism: physical magnetism, intellectual magnetism, sympathetic magnetism which is sometimes called personal magnetism, and spiritual magnetism.
Freshness, purity, good health, cleanliness, harmonious movements, regular form, all these help physical magnetism. Every man who is loving, affectionate, kindly, gentle, and who has developed a sympathetic nature will always attract without knowing it. For sympathy has the greatest power, and this magnetism is lasting. In whatever relationship you may be to a person, if there is no link of sympathy there is no attraction.
By the lack of development of the sympathetic nature a blockage is produced in the mind and in the body. In the physical body there are some nerve centers which are awakened by the development of sympathy. Otherwise they are closed. It is for this reason that a butcher will seldom be intuitive, as everything that keeps a man away from sympathy robs him of intuition. Sympathy develops life in the finer centers, and the absence of that sympathy takes away that life. And so it is with the mind. When the heart is not sympathetic there is something missing in the man's mentality. Very often a person may be highly qualified, very intellectual, imposing in appearance, and yet being without feeling he will lack magnetism and in many cases will fail to succeed because of his lack of sympathy.
The fourth kind of magnetism is spiritual magnetism. It can be recognized in the innocence of a man, in his purity, in his simplicity. A spiritual person is considered very evolved, but in his appearance the spiritual person may be the most simple, the most innocent one. He is not ignorant but less complicated, broader in outlook, keener in perception, with lofty ideals, with a high consciousness. And yet humble and democratic in the true sense of the word.
The idea of democracy is wrongly understood by many today. The principle that 'I am as good as you' is a wrong principle of democracy. It takes away humbleness, gentleness, and the high ideal. Besides how childish to think that camphor and bone, chalk and sugar are all equal! It seems a very kind idea that everybody is equal. But when you tune the piano with all the notes at the same pitch there is no more music. This wrong conception of democracy is like tuning the whole piano to the same note.
Then the music of the soul becomes dull. It is more an obsession with democracy than democracy itself. Real democracy is raising oneself higher by appreciating the ideal one meets. In this way one rises to a higher ideal. But many people do not appreciate a high ideal. Democracy means being equal on a higher plane instead of being ignorant. Pulling a high person down to the earth and then speaking of democracy is wrong democracy. It is the spirit of the revolutionary, of people who are obsessed by one particular idea, regardless of anything else, as has been seen in many places. For instance, when there came a revolt against the Catholic Church, what happened?
The revolt was not only against the Church, but against the ideals of the Church. Every good aspect was disregarded. It was not only a revolt against what was not desirable, but against everything connected with it. It is from that time that the sense and depth of religion which existed in the Western world seem to have been diminishing, and they are diminishing further every day. In spite of the many churches there is less idealism. The ideal which is necessary in some form or other for every soul has been drowned. It is drowned because people have revolted against something regardless of what is good in it.
When a person disregards the God-ideal his tendency is to disregard everything that is related to it. And so the art of personality has been lost in the obsession with democracy, instead of being realized as a higher spiritual evolution. It is the spiritual outlook alone that gives man real democratic feeling. It means that for such a person any other man, be it his enemy or his great friend, is his parent, his brother. The spiritual man sees everyone as himself. He sees his own spirit, his own soul reflected in the other. That is real democracy, when one sees oneself in both a higher and a lower person. That is the highest ideal of spiritual attainment, and that is what makes man really democratic.
One only rises to such an ideal by degrees. And the first degree is gentleness. That is why in the English language the word ‘gentleman’ was used. Why gentle? Because he had taken the first step towards the art of personality. It is not necessary for a person to be rich, or to be in a good position, or to hold a high rank. That does not necessarily make him gentle. However high the position and rank one may have, one may still not be gentle. Once a person has become thoughtful his first step is to become gentle. As soon as thoughtfulness is developed in him, he takes his first step towards real evolution.
Gentleness is the greatest power of all. Gentleness is like the power of water: water is purifying, and if there is a rock in the path of a stream of water it will surround the rock. It will not break it, for water is pliable, and so is the one who is gentle. Gentleness in the long run will always purify everything.
We might imagine that everyone tries to be thoughtful. And yet when we consider two things in our daily life – when silence is needed and when speech – we find that we make a thousand mistakes. Often we speak more than we need to speak. Or we give our confidence to someone to whom it would have been better not to have given it, or we have spoken to someone and we should not have done it. But it is too late when we think of it afterwards.
Sometimes in a mood of haste, or opposition, or in a distressed condition, a person might say something hurtful without meaning it. He says it and then he repents. By speaking he has not gained anything, except that it might have been a pastime, it has released a desire to say something. But afterwards it has a result just the same. The heart of man is so delicate. It is just like a fragile glass, and once it is broken is very difficult to mend. Any hurt and harm once given is never really mended. One can apologize and ask forgiveness, but what is done is done. What is said is said. The word is not lost. Every word we speak remains somewhere: in the heart of the one listening, in space or in the ground, it stays and has some result. Moreover, by learning to be thoughtful one develops dignity in one's nature. The more one thinks of others the more dignified one becomes, because dignity springs from thoughtfulness.
Then very often a person makes a habit of being talkative. He wastes his own time, his own thought, and the thought and time of the other person. And very often it ends in confusion. One accomplishes nothing by useless arguments. It is amusing to notice that very often a person argues because he lacks knowledge. He goes on arguing because he does not know; he wants to find out from the other person what he knows about it. Besides, how can one understand by discussing or arguing that which one can only understand by one's own wisdom, by the intuition within? It is very often a loss of time.
Some have a real passion for talking. To them it is an amusement, a pastime. But in the end they exhaust themselves and become nervous, and nothing is gained. Silence seems sometimes very hard to keep, but surely it has great advantages, as disagreement and [disharmony] can often be avoided by it. Silence is good for both the wise and the foolish. For the wise man it is good because it avoids unnecessary talk. He can keep his precious thought well cherished within himself. And so he rears the good thought, which is like a plant. And the foolish one covers up his stupidity as long as he keeps silent, and so much the better. Silence raises the dignity of the wise and hides the stupidity of the foolish. Besides the more one evolves the more one will discover the different grades of people, just like the different keys on the piano. One is lower, another is higher.
Every person has a different grade of evolution. Also, the higher you evolve the more you will find that you cannot drive everyone with the same whip. You have to speak to everyone differently, in fact in his own language. If you speak a language he does not understand, it will be gibberish to him. If he is less evolved he will abuse you for what you have said. If he is highly evolved and you say something which does not reach his state of evolution it will make you small in his eyes. What is the use? Besides you will always find that [disharmony] is caused unnecessarily by words. On the other hand, however inharmonious the atmosphere created by other persons may be, if you have the words of wisdom you can dissolve the clouds of [disharmony].
Once when traveling I met a man of a very dense evolution, a soldier who always lived in military surroundings and who had very fixed ideas of his own. And when we were talking together and it appeared that we thought differently about something, I happened to say in order to preserve harmony, 'Well, we are brothers!' He looked at me with great anger, and said, 'Brothers! How dare you say such a thing!' I said, 'I forgot. I am your servant, Sir.' He was very pleased. I could have argued, but this would have created disharmony without reason. The foolishness of that man blazed up just like fire. I put water on it and extinguished it. I did not diminish myself. We are all servants of one another. And it pleased and satisfied him.
There is a story of a wise healer. A woman went to him and asked, 'Can you tell me what to do? I am having a difficult time with my husband. There is a quarrel at home every day.' He said, 'That is very easy.' She said, 'I would be so grateful.' He said, 'I will give you these lozenges, these sweets. You keep them in your mouth when your husband comes home and all will be well. They are magnetized sweets.' And every day she noticed that there was no quarrel any more. After ten days when the sweets were finished she went back to the healer and said, 'I would give anything if you could let me have some more of those sweets. They were wonderful.' Then the teacher said, 'My friend, you must understand after eating the sweets for ten days, that your husband, having toiled all day, is nervous and tired and weary when he comes home. Naturally, he is not in tune. And you made him worse by talking. By keeping silent you gave him nothing to quarrel about, and your home became more harmonious. This should teach you a lesson: that silence is the key to harmony.'
(Excerpted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Alchemy of Happiness [“The Sufi Message”, vol. VI])
URL of Part 68: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/hazrat-inayat-khan/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--68---the-purpose-of-life-(2)/d/98774