By Hazrat Inayat Khan
The goal of the spiritual person is self-realization, and his journey is towards the depth of his own being, his God, his ideal.
Does such a person sacrifice all interests in life, or does he consider the different objects that people have in their lives as something leading astray? Not at all. No doubt his object is the highest that any soul can have, but all other objects which he sees before himself in life do not necessarily hinder him on his path; they become as a staircase on his way, making his path easy to tread. Therefore, the person living the inner life never condemns and does not criticize the objects of another, however small or ridiculous they may appear, for he knows that every object in the life of a person is but a stepping stone which leads him forward if he only wishes to go forward.
There is a time in the life of a soul when it has the desire to play with dolls; there is a seeking after toys. From the spiritual point of view there is no harm in that, and man sees in time the way that leads to the goal; these are only passing interests leading to others, and in this way man goes forward.
Therefore, according to the view of the seer, man places before him at different times such objects as riches, pleasure, or material heaven; the spiritual person starts his journey from the point where these end. The process of evolution is not a straight way; it is more like a wheel that is ever turning. So the experience of a person who treads the spiritual path begins to show a downward tendency, and from that again upwards. For instance, in the spiritual path a person goes backwards, he experiences youth again, for spirituality gives health to the mind and the body, it being the real life. He experiences vigor, strength, aspiration, enthusiasm, energy, and a living spirit that makes him feel youthful, whatever be his age. Then, he becomes as a little child: eager to play, ready to laugh, and happy among children. He shows in his personality, childlike traits: especially that look that one sees in children, where there is no worry, anxiety, or bitter feeling against anyone, where there is a desire to be friendly with all, where there is no pride or conceit, but readiness to associate with anybody, whatever be his class or caste, nation or race. So the spiritual person becomes like a child. The tendency to tears, the readiness for laughter, all these are found in the spiritual person.
As the spiritual person goes further he shows in his nature infancy. This can be perceived in his innocence. His heart may be lighted with wisdom, yet he is innocent; he is easily deceived, even knowingly, besides being happy under all conditions, like an infant. As the infant has no regard for honor or for insult, neither has the spiritual person. When he arrives at this state, he answers insult with a smile. Honors given to him are like honors given to a little baby, who does not know to whom they are offered. Only the person who has given the honors knows that they have been given to somebody. The spiritual one is not conscious of it, nor happy in it, nor proud of it. It is nothing to him. The one who has honored him has honored himself, since to the baby it is nothing if somebody should speak in favor of him or against him; the baby does not mind, he is ready to smile at both; so is the spiritual soul.
As the spiritual soul proceeds further he begins to show the real traits of humanity, for here real humanity begins. One can see in such a soul the signs which are the pure characteristics of the human being, devoid of the animal traits. For instance, there is a tendency in him to appreciate every little good deed done by anyone, to admire good wherever he sees it in any person: a tendency to sympathize, whatever be the condition of a person, saint or sinner; a tendency to take interest in the affairs of his friends when called upon to do so; a tendency to sacrifice, not considering what he sacrifices, as long as he is moved to do that action. Respect, gratitude, sincerity, faithfulness, patience, endurance, all these qualities begin to show in the character of that man. It is in this stage that truly he can judge, for at this stage the sense of justice awakens.
But as he grows he continues also to grow backward. He now shows the signs of the animal kingdom; for instance, such a quality as that of the elephant, which, with all its strength and power of giant bulk, is ready to take the load put upon it; the horse which is ready to serve the rider; and the cow which lives in the world harmoniously, comes home without being driven, gives milk which is the right of her calf. These qualities come to the spiritual person. The same thing is taught by Christ.
When he goes on further still there develops in him the quality of the vegetable kingdom, of the plants that bring forth fruit and flowers; patiently waiting for the rain from above; never asking any return from those who come to gather flowers and fruit, giving and never expecting a return, desiring only to bring forth beauty according to the capability which is hidden in them, and letting it be taken by the worthy or unworthy, whoever it be, without any expectation of appreciation or thanks.
And when the spiritual person advances still further he arrives at the stage of the mineral kingdom. He becomes as a rock; a rock for others to lean on, to depend upon; a rock that stands unmoved amidst the constantly moving waves of the sea of life; a rock to endure all things of this world whose influence has a jarring effect upon sensitive human beings; a rock of constancy in friendship, of steadfastness in love, of loyalty to every ideal for which he has taken his stand. One can depend on him through life and death, here and hereafter. In this world where nothing is dependable, which is full of changes every moment, such a soul has arrived at the stage where he shows through all these changes that rock-like quality, proving thereby his advancement to the mineral kingdom.
His further advancement is into the jinn quality, which represents the all knowing, all understanding. There is nothing he cannot understand; however difficult the situation, however subtle the problem, whatever be the condition of those around him, he understands it all. A person may come to him hardened with faults that he has committed all his life; before this understanding he melts, for whether it be friend or an enemy, he understands both. Not only has he the knowledge of human nature, but of objects as well, of conditions of life in general in all its aspects.
And when he advances still further his nature develops into that of an angel. The nature of the angel is to be worshipful. He therefore worships God in all creatures; he does not feel to be any greater or better or any more spiritual himself than anybody else. In this realization he is the worshipper of all the names and forms there are, for he considers them all the names and forms of God. There is no one, however degenerate or looked down upon by the world, who is any less in his eyes. In his eyes there is no one but the divine Being; and in this way every moment of his life is devoted to worship. For him it is no longer necessary that he must worship God at a certain time, or in a certain house, or in a certain manner. There is no one moment that he is not in worship. Every moment of his life he is in worship, he is before God; and being before God at every moment of his life he becomes so purified that his heart becomes a crystal where everything is clear. Everything is reflected there, no one can hide his thoughts from him, nothing is hidden from him; all is known as clearly as it is known to the other person, and more so. For every person knows his own condition and yet not the reason, but the spiritual being at this stage knows the condition of the person and the reason behind it. Therefore he knows more about every person than that person knows himself.
It is in this stage that his progress culminates and comes to its fullness; and Christ has spoken concerning this in the words: 'Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.' When that stage arrives, it is beyond all expression. It is a sense, it is a realization, and it is a feeling, which words can never explain. There is only one thing that can be said, that when a person has touched that stage which is called perfection, his thought, speech, action, his atmosphere, everything becomes productive of God; he spreads God everywhere. Even if he did not speak, still he would spread God; if he did not do anything, still he would bring God. And thus God-realized ones bring to the world the living God. At present there exists in the world only a belief in God; God exists in imagination, in the ideal. It is such a soul which has touched divine Perfection that brings to the earth a living God, who without him would remain only in the heavens.
[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination (The Sufi Message, Vol. 1)]