By Hazrat Inayat Khan
[..] [A]part from kings, even the manner and method of a responsible person is not always understood by another whose responsibility is not the same, so how can man always understand the ways of God, the only King in the true sense of the word, beside whom other kings are nothing but imitations? It is the kingship of God which manifest in the blossoming of every soul. When a soul arrives at its full bloom, it begins to show the color and spread the fragrance of the divine spirit of God.
The God-ideal is meant to awaken God in the soul, in order that He may realize His kingship. It is this which is suggested in the prayer of Christ where it is said, 'Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done.' It is in this realization that the Kingdom of God comes; and what follows is that His will is then done. But when a person does not know who is the King, neither does he know what is the kingdom.
From the time that man evolved enough to be able to understand his affairs, kingdoms have been established; when man had learned the first lesson, when he understood what a king and a kingdom meant, he knew that there was someone whose command was obeyed by all, both great and small; someone who raised and judged all those deserving of honor and respect in the kingdom; who was like a mother and father to his subjects. It was the same education as that of a child, which after playing with its dolls, begins to understand about the cares of the household.
The next step on the spiritual path was taken when the spiritual hierarchy was recognized, the prophet or the high priest representing the spiritual Head. In this way man realized that it is not the outer environment, money, or possessions which make a king, but that spiritual realization can make a person greater than a king with all his kingly surroundings. This was proved to the people when the king, who was accepted as the head of the community, went before the high priest with bent head and knelt down in the place of prayer. This taught man that kingship lies not in outer wealth but in spirituality; that even the king stands humbly at the door of the God-realized man.
When once this step was taken, then came the third step, which was to see that the high-priest, who was acknowledged as such even by the king, knelt down and bent his head low to the Lord, the king of humanity, showing his own greatness to be as dust before God, to whom alone belongs all greatness. When people realized the greatness of God, they glorified God […]. [O]nce man realized that it is God alone before whom he should bow, that it is God alone who is really rich while all are poor, that it is God alone whose wisdom and justice are perfect, then for him the kingship of the king and the holiness of the high-priest faded away, and there remained only one king, the King of kings. On Him he depended, and under Him he sought refuge in all the different circumstances of life.
After man had taken these three steps towards the goal, he found the goal to be quite different from the way that he had taken, and that goal was the discovery of the traces of the King of kings within himself, a spark of that divine light which is the illumination of his own heart, a ray of that Sun which is the light of the whole universe. And thus self-realization developed, in which the soul found the wisdom, illumination, and peace, which are the purpose of the God-ideal.
[Extracted from the section titled “The God-Ideal” in Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Unity of Religious Ideals (The Sufi Message Vol IX)]