The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



Unity and Uniformity


The Sufi's Religion

The Aspects of Religion

How to Attain to Truth by Religion

Five Desires Answered by Religion


Aspects of the Law of Religion


The Effect of Prayer

The God Ideal

The Spiritual Hierarchy

The Master, the Saint, the Prophet

Prophets and Religions

The Symbology of Religious Ideas

The Message and the Messenger


The Spirit of Sufism

The Sufi's Aim in Life

The Ideal of the Sufi

The Sufi Movement

The Universal Worship




The Symbol of the Sun

The Brahman Symbolical Form of Worship



The Story of Lot's Wife

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Jesus Walking on the Water

The Symbol of the Cross

The Symbol of the Dove

The Ten Virgins

Tongues of Flame

Shaqq-i Sadr: the Opening of the Breast of the Prophet

Miraj: the Dream of the Prophet

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

The Symbology of Religious Ideas


The wise have given lessons to the world in different forms suited to the evolution of the people at a particular time, and the first and most original form of education that the wise gave to the world was symbolical. This method of teaching has been valued in all ages, and will always have its importance. That is not beauty which is not veiled. In the veiling and unveiling of beauty is the purpose of life. Beauty is that which is always out of reach. You see it and you do not see it. You touch it and you cannot touch it. It is seen and yet veiled; it is known and yet unknown. And therefore words are often inadequate to express the beauty of Truth. Therefore symbolism is adopted by the wise.

The religions of the old Egyptians, of the ancient Greeks, of the Hindus, and of the Parsis, all have symbols which express the essential Truth hidden under a religion. There is a symbolism in Christianity, and in many ancient religions of the world. Man has often rebelled against symbolism; but it is natural: man has always revolted against things he cannot understand. There has been a wave of opposition to symbolism in both parts of the world, the East and the West. It came in the East in the period of Islam, and in the West it re-echoed in the Reformation. No doubt when the sacred symbols are made as patents by the religious who want to monopolize the whole Truth for themselves, then it gives rise to that tendency of human nature which is always ready to accept things or reject them. However, one can say without exaggeration that symbology has always served to keep the ancient wisdom intact for ages. It is symbology that can prove today the saying of Solomon: "There is nothing new under the sun." There are many thoughts relating to human nature, the nature of life, relating to God and His many attributes, and relating to the path towards the goal, that are expressed in symbolism.

To a person who sees only the surface of life, symbols mean nothing. The secret of symbols is revealed to souls who see through life, whose glance penetrates through objects. Verily, before the seer the things of the world open themselves. And it is in this uncovering of things that beauty is hidden. There is a great joy in understanding, especially in understanding things that to most people mean nothing. It requires intuition, even something deeper than intuition--insight--to read symbols. To the one to whom symbols speak of their nature and of their secret, each symbol is in itself a living manuscript. Symbology is the best means of learning the mysteries of life, and one of the best ways of leaving behind ideas which will keep for ages after the Teacher has passed away. It is speaking without speaking; it is writing without writing. The symbol may be said to be an ocean in a drop.

The Symbol of the Sun

Light has the greatest attraction for the human soul. Man loves it in the fire and in things that are bright and shining, and that is why he considers gold and jewels as precious. The Cosmos has a greater attraction for him than the earth, because of the light. As man evolves, he naturally ceases to look down on earth, but looks up to the Cosmos, the Heavens. The most attractive object that he sees is the sun in the heavens, the sun which is without any support and is more luminous than anything else in the heavens. Therefore, as man is attracted to beauty and surrenders to beauty, he bows to the sun as being the greatest beauty in heaven, and man took the sun as Nature's symbol of God.

This symbol he pictures in different forms. In Persia, China, Japan, India, Egypt, whenever God was pictured, it was in the form of the sun. In all ages man has pictured his Prophet, Master, Savior, with a sun around his head. In ancient Persia there used to be a golden disc behind the head of the king, picturing him as the sun, and they used to call this disc Zardash. The name Zarathustra has the same origin; the word simply meant the golden disc. In Hindu temples and Buddhist temples around the image of different Avataras there is this sign of the sun, and this symbol was used both in the East and in the West in turbans and hats. There are now people in India who put on their turbans a brass band, which represents the sun.

A deeper study of the sun suggests the four directions of lines that are formed around it. It is this sign that is the origin of the symbol of the cross. The ancient traditions prove that the idea of the cross existed in the East long before the coming of Christ, especially among the Brahmans. It is from this sign that the two sacred arms were made, Chakra and Trissoun. Islam, the religion which allows no symbolism, has in the building of the mosques the same symbolism of the sun. Whether the name of the sun be written in Persian or in Arabic, it makes the form of the mosque.

Man, as happens to be his nature, has blamed the sun worshipers and mocked at them, but he has never been able to uproot the charm, the attraction for human souls held by the sun.

The Brahman Symbolical Form of Worship

Puja is the name of the Brahman form of worship, which is, from the beginning to the end, a symbolical expression of what the seeker has to perform on the path of spiritual attainment. After bathing in the running stream of water, which the Hindu calls the Ganges (whatever be the name of the river, he at that time believes that it is the Ganges, the sacred river), he proceeds with flowers to the shrine of the deity. He puts onto the deity the flowers, and repeats the mantram, and stands greeting the deity with folded hands, and prostrates himself before the deity. Then he rings the bell and repeats the sacred word. Then he takes rice in his hands and puts it at the feet of the deity. Then the red powder, coucou, he touches with the tip of his finger, and makes a mark with it on the shrine of the deity and then on his own forehead. Then he touches the ointment with the tip of his finger, and, after touching the deity, he touches his forehead with the same ointment. He then prostrates himself, and makes three circles around the shrine. Then he rings the bell, and thus the service is finished. Afterwards he goes and stands before the sun, and does his breathing exercises while arising to the sun, and that completes the next part of his worship.

However primitive this form of worship, at the back of it there seems to be a great meaning. The meaning of the bath in the Ganges is to become purified before one makes any effort of journeying on the spiritual path. The purification of the body and of the mind both is necessary before one takes the first step towards the God-Ideal. One must not approach the deity before such purification--the outer purification as well as the inner purification--for then alone, when once a person is pure, he will find it easy to attain the desired Presence. The meaning of the flowers, which he takes, is that God is pleased with the offerings which are delicate, beautiful, and fragrant. Delicacy means tenderness of heart, beautiful in color is fineness of character; fragrance is the virtue of the soul. This is the offering with which God is pleased.

He stands with the thought that his self is devoted in perfect discipline to the Supreme Will of God. His hands folded express no action on the part of himself, but complete surrender. The meaning of prostration is self-denial in the right sense of the word, which means: "I am not; Thou art." Whispering the words and ringing the bell is that the same word is rung in the bell of one's heart. His touching the red powder means touching the eternal life; and when he touches the deity with the powder, it means that from this source he is to gain eternal life; when he touches his forehead with it, it means he has gained it for himself. And the ointment means wisdom, and the touching of the god with it and then his forehead means that true Wisdom can be obtained from God alone, and touching his own head with it means that he has gained it. Then making three circles around the shrine is the sign that life is a journey, and that the journey is made to attain his goal, which is God; "Every step I take in my life," the Brahman thinks, "will be in His direction, in the search of God." In the second part of the service, when he stands before the sun, by that he means that God is to be sought in the light. And by the breathing exercises he welds that link of inner communication between God and himself.

The Flute of Krishna

Krishna is pictured in Hindu symbology with a crown of peacock's feathers, playing the flute. Krishna is the ideal of Divine Love, the God of Love. And the Divine Love expresses itself by entering into man and filling his whole being. Therefore the flute is the human heart, and a heart which is made hollow will become a flute for the God of Love to play upon. When the heart is not empty -- in other words, when there is no scope in the heart -- there is no place for love.

Rumi, the great poet of Persia, explains the idea more clearly. He says the pains and sorrows the soul experiences through life are as holes made in a reed flute, and it is by making these holes that a player makes out of a reed a flute. Which means, the heart of man is first a reed, and the sufferings and pains it goes through make it a flute, which can then be used by God as the instrument to produce the music that He constantly wishes to produce. But every reed is not a flute, and so every heart is not His instrument. As the reed needs to be made into a flute, so the human heart can be turned into an instrument, and can be offered to the God of Love. It is the human heart which becomes the harp of the angels; it is the human heart which is known as the lute of Orpheus. It is on the model of the heart of man that the first instrument of music was made, and no earthly instrument can produce that music which the heart produces, raising the mortal soul to immortality.

The crown of peacock's feathers leads to a further revelation, that it is the music of the heart which can be expressed through the head; it is the knowledge of the head and the love of the heart that expresses the Divine Message fully. The peacock's feather has in all ages been considered as a sign of beauty and as a sign of knowledge: beauty because it is beautiful, knowledge because it is in the form of an eye. It is by keen observation that man acquires knowledge. Knowledge without love is lifeless. So, with the flute, the crown of peacock's feathers makes the symbol complete.


In the old Scriptures, such as the Vedanta and the Old Testament, spirit is symbolized as water. One wonders why something which is next to earth should be considered as spirit. The nature of water is to give life to the earth, and so the nature of the soul is to give life to the body. Without water the earth is dead; so is the body without soul. Water and earth both mix together; so the spirit mixes with matter and revivifies it. And yet the spirit stands above matter, as water in time lets the earth go to the depth, and stands itself above the earth. But one may ask: "Is the spirit hidden under matter, as the soul in the body?" The answer is: "So does water stay beneath the earth." There is no place where water does not exist; there are places where earth is not to be found; so nowhere in space spirit is absent; only the absence of matter is possible.

The symbolical way of expressing high ideas does not come from the brain; it is an outcome of intuition. The beginning of intuition is to understand the symbolical meaning of different things, and the next step is to express things symbolically. It is in itself a Divine Art, and the best proof of it is to be found in the symbol of water, which is so fitting to express the meaning of spirit.


Wine is considered sacred, not only in the Christian faith, but in many other religions also. In the ancient religion of the Zoroastrians, Jarni Jarnsshyd, the bowl of wine from which "Jamsshyd drank deep," is a historical fact. Among the Hindus, Shiva considered wine sacred. And in Islam, though wine is forbidden on earth, yet in Heaven it is allowed. Haussi Kaussar, the sacred fountain of Heaven, about which there is so much spoken in Islam, is a fountain of wine.

Wine is symbolical of the soul's evolution. Wine comes from the annihilation of grapes; immortality comes from the annihilation of self. The bowl of poison which is known in many mystical cults also suggests the idea of wine--not a sweet wine, but a bitter wine. When the self turns into something different from what it was before, it is like the soul being born again. This is seen in the grape turning into wine. The grape, by turning into wine, lives; as a grape it would have vanished in time. Only, by turning into wine, the grape loses its individuality, and yet not its life. The selfsame grape lives as wine; and the longer it lives, the better the wine becomes. For a Sufi, therefore, the true sacrament is the turning of one's grape-like personality, which has a limited time to live, into wine; that nothing of one's self may be lost, but, on the contrary, it may be amplified, even perfected. This is the essence of all philosophy and the secret of mysticism.

The Story of Lot's Wife

The ancient method of giving the mystery of life was to give it in the form of a legend. The legend of Lot's wife is that it was to Abraham that Lot was related, and it was by the love and help of Abraham that the two angels were sent to Lot, to warn him of the coming destruction of two cities and to advise him to go to the mountains. And Lot was not willing to leave the cities, but in the end he agreed to. His sons-in-law failed him by not accompanying him, but his wife and his two daughters accompanied him on the journey to the mountains. And they were told that his wife must not look back; and when she did, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters remained, and they reached the cave of the mountain, which was Lot's destination.

The two towns that were to be destroyed represent the North Pole and the South Pole, the two poles of the world. For all the treasure of the earth, all possessions and power and fame that belong to the earth, are subject to destruction. And that was taught to Lot, the human soul, who was the relation of Abraham, the divine soul, which is from Brahma, the Creator. The relationship of Lot with Abraham represents the relation of the human soul to the Creator. The two angels were the angels of light and of reason. When the light comes to man, its first teaching is to warn the soul of the disaster that awaits all that is subject to death and destruction. It is this lesson that is called in Sanskrit the lesson of Vairagya -- when man's eyes open to see that all that he loves and likes and wishes to hold and possess is subject to destruction and death.

There are five bodies considered by the Mystics of old to be the vehicles of the soul, which are called:

  1. Anandarmayakosh, body of joy;
  2. Vignanamayakosh, body of wisdom;
  3. Manamayakosh, body of mind;
  4. Pranamayakosh, body of ether;
  5. Annamayakosh, body of earth.

This last is the receptacle of food. It lives on earthly food, and if it is starved of that, it dies. For it is made of earth; it lives on earth. The other is the receptacle of ether, which is called Pranamayakosh. That part of man's being lives by breath and by taking in the air, and if it is starved of air, it cannot live. These two bodies form the material part, the physical part, of man's being. And it is these two receptacles which are referred to in the legend as the two sons-in-law.

Then there is Manamayakosh, which is mind, and the mental body. And this body has its action and reaction on both sides; it acts and reacts on the earthly bodies, and it acts and reacts upon the soul. Therefore when Lot left the two cities, which represent the physical plane, to journey toward the goal of Immortality, his wife was still with him. For it is not necessary for the mental body to stay behind when the journey towards illumination is begun. It is capable of going with the soul towards Eternity. And yet its attachment to earth and the physical plane is great, because it is made, it is built, of physical impressions, of all impressions that come from the physical world; and of necessity it wants to turn to see if the physical being or the spiritual being is leading it aright. The principal nature of mind is doubt -- whether one is doing right or wrong. And doubt and faith are enemies. While faith leads to the destination, doubt pulls back. When the mind was so pulled back, attracted by all the impressions of earthly life, it could neither take hold of the earth nor journey with the spirit, and remained neither earth nor water, but salt.

The only two bodies which are close to the soul followed the soul. Naturally they would follow, for they are closely related to the soul, Vignanamayakosh, the body of wisdom, and Anandamayakosh, the body of joy. The soul bound towards the Eternal Goal -- as it is called, the top of the mountains -- then proceeded towards the mountains. And before they reached the top of the mountains, there was the cave, which is called Heaven -- in metaphysics, capacity; in Sanskrit, Akasha -- which has the power of holding the soul from going to the top and using the soul for some purpose. And the soul which was bound for the Eternal Goal remained, intoxicated by the ecstasy that it received from the plane of joy and the plane of wisdom. And as everything that happens has its purpose, so this joy resulted in a great purpose, in the birth of the Messenger, which in Sanskrit is called Bodhisattva. The Messenger was born of the souls' experience, the knowledge and the happiness, to bring good tidings to the world.

A question may arise, why Manarnayakosh must be the mother, and Anandamayakosh and Vignanamayakosh must be the daughters. And the answer is that they are born of mind, born of mind and soul. If there were only the soul, there would be neither joy nor wisdom. Mind and soul both produce joy and wisdom. Therefore the latter are the daughters, because mind is the mother. The two lower planes are represented by the sons-in-law, because they were not directly born of mind and soul; it was a separate substance mind and soul have taken into their life. By this story the process is taught how the soul can journey from mortality to immortality, and what experiences the soul possibly has to have on its way. But when the Messenger is so created, then the Father -- the Soul -- rests in peace. It is therefore that the Messenger was called the Son, and the Original Soul the Father.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

The wrestling of Jacob was the wrestling of the soul with the ego. That awakened soul looks about and asks: "Who is my enemy?" And while the ignorant soul thinks: "It is my neighbor, my relation, who is my enemy," the awakened soul says: "It is myself; my ignorant ego is my enemy; and it is the struggle with this enemy that will bring me light and raise me from the denseness of the earth."

Night is, symbolically, the time when the darkness of ignorance causes confusion; one feels sorrow, loneliness, depression; one sees no way out; one is burdened on all sides, chained; there seems no freedom for the soul; for this is the time of night. But when the soul can fight the ego, then it rises above the chains and attachments of this world.

As it is said in the Bible, first Jacob left all his belongings; he came away from them. This means that he was indifferent to all to which he once felt attached. The Sufi looks at this from another point of view. He thinks that to leave all he possesses, and to go to the forests or mountains, is not true detachment; the true detachment is in the heart of man. One can be surrounded by beauty, comfort, wealth, position, love -- all these things -- and yet be detached from them; be no slave to them; rise above them.

Jacob left all and came to the solitude, into the silence; and there he wished to fight the deluded self, the ego, which blinds man to the Truth. And what was the result? The daybreak came, and that man, or angel, who had fought with Jacob, wished to depart. This means that the ego wanted to leave; there was no more ego, no more I; but with the daybreak a new light, a new inspiration, a new revelation, came. The very ego which Jacob saw as his greatest enemy, in the daylight he recognized as God Himself. The One with Whom all night he had fought, he bowed before Him, he asked His blessing; he asked His Name, for he saw then: "No longer I, but Thou." And the name could not be told, for that was the unveiling of the Unity of God and man, and in this realization names and forms are lost.

Jesus Walking on the Water

The phenomenon of Christ's walking on the water, from a mystical point of view is suggestive of a much greater philosophy than only a phenomenon. The whole universe in all its forms is one single vision of a constant activity. From beginning to end every aspect of life represents motion, and it is the perpetual motion of the whole universe which is called life. Therefore the universe is, so to speak, an ocean of vibrations, and every movement represents a wave. Therefore, the wise have called it, in Sanskrit, Bhava Sagara, the ocean of life, and the great devotees have constantly prayed to be liberated, that they may not sink in this ocean, but that they may be able to swim in it--which is called Tarana. And it is the Master Spirit that can rise above these waves of the enormous ocean of life, in which generally the souls are drowned. To be in it, and to be able to stand above it, and to walk on it, is the phenomenon of Christ's walking upon it.

Christ said to the fishermen: "I will make you fishers of men."That meant: "As you spread the net and the fishes come into it, so by spirituality your personality will spread in the atmosphere, and the hearts of men hungering for love will be attracted to you as fishes." The love of Christ for the lamb symbolically expresses that to the Master that soul made a greater appeal which was simple and harmless as a lamb. And the crown of thorns represents tolerance of the thorn-like personalities of which there are so many in the world, constantly pricking with their thorns, consciously or unconsciously; and it is this which makes the sensitive annoyed with life in the world. But the Messenger, whose heart represents the Divine Mother and Father both, cannot but be tolerant, and can take willingly all the thorns that would come to him; for that is his crown, the sign of his Sovereignty in the Kingdom of soul.

Christ said to Peter: "Thou wilt deny me three times before the cock crows." It explains human nature. The faith of man is generally dependent upon the faith of the multitude; if the multitude calls the pebble a diamond, everyone will begin to consider it so and to say so. And if the multitude thought that the diamond was a pebble, then everyone would follow the belief of the multitude. The soul of the Messenger, that comes from above (which the dove represents), which is not made by the world nor known by the world, remains unrecognized till the cock crows and the sun rises. Then his words shine and spread the light to the world; and the souls privileged with some little recognition, but with a great deal of doubt, may believe for a moment, impressed by the power and grace of the Master's personality, and yet may deny a thousand times, and doubt and suspect, being impressed by the influence of the multitude. How true it is, the saying in Hindustani that, "Generally a soul follows the multitude." There are rare souls who believe in their conviction, and remain steady even if it were that the whole world was against their own inner conviction. Verily to the faithful belongs every blessing.

The Symbol of the Cross

The symbol of the cross has many significations. It is said in the Bible: first was the word, and then came light, and then the world was created. And as the light is expressed in the form of the cross, so every form shows in it the original sign. Every artist knows the value of the vertical line and the horizontal line, which are the skeleton of every form. This proves the teaching of the Qur'an, in which it is said that God created the world from His own light. The cross is the figure that fits to every form everywhere.

Morally the cross signifies pain or torture. That means that in every activity of life, which may be pictured as a perpendicular line, there come hindrances, which the horizontal line represents. This shows the nature of life, and that, as it is said, man proposes and God disposes. Somebody asked the great Master, Ali, what made him believe in God, Who is beyond human comprehension. Ali said: "I believe in God because I see that when I alone wish, things are not accomplished." According to the metaphysical point of view, this shows the picture of limitation in life.

The symbol of the cross in its connection with the life of Christ not only relates to the crucifixion of the Master, but signifies the crucifixion that one has to meet with by possessing the Truth. The idea of this Hindu philosophy is that the life in the world is an illusion, and therefore every experience in the life and knowledge of this life is also illusion. The Sanskrit word for this illusion is Maya; it is also called Mithea, from which the word myth comes. When the soul begins to see the Truth, it is, so to say, born again; and to this soul all that appears truth to an average person appears false, and what seems truth to this soul is nothing to that average person; all that seems to that average person important and precious in life has no value nor importance for this soul, and what seems to this soul important and valuable has no importance nor value for the average person.

Therefore he naturally finds himself alone in a crowd which lives in a world quite different from that in which he lives. Imagine living in a world where nobody uses your language. Yet he can live in the world, for he knows its language. And yet to him the life in the world is as unprofitable as to a grown-up person the world of children playing with their toys. A human being who has realized the Truth is subject to all pains and torture in the same way as all other persons, except that he is capable of bearing them better than the others. But, at the same time, while in the crowd everyone hits the other and also receives blows, the knower of Truth has to stand alone and receive them only; this is in itself a great torture. The life in the world is difficult for every person, rich or poor, strong or weak, but for the knower of Truth it is still more difficult, and that in itself is a cross.

Therefore for a spiritual Messenger the cross is a natural emblem, to explain his moral condition. But there is a still higher significance of the cross which is understood by the mystic. The significance is what is called self-denial; in order to teach this moral gentleness, humility and modesty are taught as a first lesson. Self-denial is an effect of which self-effacement is the cause. It is that a man says: "I am not; Thou art." For instance, an artist, looking at his picture, says: "It is Thy work, not mine," or a musician, hearing his composition, says: "It is Thy creation; I do not exist." Then that soul is in a way crucified, and through that crucifixion resurrection comes. There is not the slightest doubt that when man has had enough pain in his life, he rises to this great consciousness. But it is not necessary that only pain should be the means. It is the readiness on the part of man to deny his part of consciousness and to efface his own personality which lifts the veil that hides the Spirit of God from the view of man.

The Symbol of the Dove

The bird represents the wayfarer of the sky, and at the same time it represents a being who belongs to the earth and is capable of dwelling in the skies. The former explanation of the bird represents the idea of a soul whose dwelling place is Heaven, and the latter represents the dweller on earth being able to move about in the higher spheres, and both these explanations give the idea that the spiritual man, dwelling on the earth, is from Heaven; they explain also that the spiritual man is the inhabitant of the Heavens and is dwelling on earth for a while.

The pigeon was used as a messenger, to carry a message from one place to another, and therefore the symbol of the dove is a natural one to represent the Messenger from above. Spiritual bliss is such an experience that if a bird or an animal were to have it, it would never return to its own kind. But it is a credit due to man that, after touching that point of great happiness and bliss, he comes into the world of sorrows and disappointments and delivers his Message. This quality can be seen in the pigeon also; when the pigeon is sent, it goes, but it faithfully comes back to the master who sent it.

The spiritual man performs this duty doubly: he reaches higher than the human plane, touches the divine plane, and brings the Message from the divine to the human plane. In this way, instead of remaining on the divine plane, he arrives among his fellow men, for their welfare, which is no small sacrifice. But then again he performs a duty to God, from Whom he brings his Message, that he delivers to the human beings. He lives as a human being, subject to love, hate, praise, and blame; he passes his life in the world of attachment and the life that binds with a thousand ties from all sides. Yet he does not forget the place from whence he has come, and he constantly and eagerly looks forward to reach the place for which he is bound. Therefore in both these journeys, from earth to Heaven and from Heaven to earth, the idea of the dove proves to be more appropriate than any other idea in the world.

The Ten Virgins

There is a story in the Bible about ten virgins -- the five wise virgins and the five foolish. It was said that the bridegroom was to come, and they were to light their lamps; and five were in time, and brought the oil, and lighted their lamps; and the other five waited until the bridegroom came, and when the bridegroom came, then they went to the five who had lighted their lamps and asked of them oil, and were refused.

This story is a symbolic expression of receiving the Message of God. By virgin is meant the soul which is awaiting illumination, innocent and responsive to the light; and by five is meant the multitude. And there are two classes of people; one class is those who have prepared themselves and made ready to receive the Message of God, which is pictured as the bridegroom; and the five foolish are that class in mankind who wait and wait until the Message has come and gone. In all ages there have been these two kinds of souls--one kind who are called in the Scriptures believers, the others who are known as unbelievers.

In every age the prophecy has been made by the Messenger of the time as to the next advent. Sometimes it is said: I will come," and sometimes: "He will come."

  • "I will come" has been told to those who would recognize the same Spirit of Guidance in every coming of the Messenger;
  • "He will come" has been told to those to whom name and form make a difference, and who cannot recognize the same Spirit in another name and another form.

For example, the coming of Jesus Christ was the coming of that Spirit which was expressed in this parable as the bridegroom, and how few at that time recognized Him, and how few received illumination! Only those whose lamps were ready to be lighted.

Oil in this parable is love, and the light is wisdom. And when their lamps were lighted, then so many came afterwards; but that blessing and privilege which had come with the Personality of the Master had then gone. They had to take the benefit of the light that came from the lamps of those whose lamps were lighted, but the chance of lighting their own lamps was lost.

The same is with all things in life. Every moment in our lives is an opportunity which brings a benefit and blessing. And the one who knows how to be benefited by it, and how to be blessed by it, receives the benefit and the blessing. Everyone seems living and awake, but few souls really are living and awake. There are opportunities of benefit and blessing on every plane of one's life -- on the physical plane, on the mental plane, on the spiritual plane -- and every opportunity is invaluable. But often one realizes the truth when it is too late.

There is no greater and better opportunity than the moment that can give a spiritual illumination, a moment when one can receive the blessing of God. It is a priceless moment. Who knows it and understands it and tries to be benefited by it is blessed.

Tongues of Flame

The symbolic meaning of the legend is that there is a period when the soul of the earnest seeker is seeking, when it has not yet found the object it is seeking after. In the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the beauty of the Master's wonderful Personality and the great intoxication of his Presence, and the constant outpouring of the Message that he had to give, was so much for his disciples that it soared beyond what may be called a joy or a happiness, or something which is explainable; and all the blessing that they received and experienced during his Presence was covered by the Master's personality. And the time of realization of that which they had constantly gained came in their lives after that great change when the external Person of the Master ascended, and the capacity of realization became open.

But, after the fifty days following the Crucifixion, when they had had sufficient time to recover from the feeling that had overtaken their hearts, the seeming separation from their beloved Lord prepared them, so to speak, in time, and opened the door of their heart, giving that capacity for receiving the illumination which was constantly pouring out from the Spirit of Guidance, the Alpha and Omega, Who always was and is and will be.

The symbolic interpretation of the tongues of flame rising from the foreheads of the disciples is the light of the Message, the rays of the Christ Spirit in the form of thoughts which were expressed in words. There is a stage in the life of a Seer when the tongue of flame becomes, not only an interpretation of the mystery, but as a reality, as his own experience. The head is the center of knowledge, and, when this organ opens, the light which was covered becomes manifest, not only in idea, but even in form.

And the phenomenon which was shown the next day, when the apostles spoke all different languages, can be rightly interpreted in this sense--that every soul hears its own language. For every soul has its own word, as every soul has its peculiar evolution. And it is therefore that one person cannot understand another person in this world, and it becomes more than a miracle when one finds perhaps one person in the world who can understand one fully, which means that in this world the language of each one is not understood by another; and if someone understands a little, one feels at-one-ment with him. It was the illumination of the Christ Spirit which brought exaltation in the lives of the disciples, so that they began to respond to every soul they met, and they became at one with every soul, inspired by the sympathy and love of Christ. And they understood the souls as they saw them, and could speak with souls whose language had never before been understood. Plainly speaking, they heard the cry of every soul, and they answered every soul's cry. The Message means the answer to the cry of every soul. Every great Prophet or Teacher had in his life many followers, attracted to his personality, to his words, to his kindness and love; but those who became as the instrument of his Message, whose hearts became as a flute for the Master to play his music, have always been some chosen few, as the twelve apostles of Christ.

Shaqq-i Sadr: the Opening of the Breast of the Prophet

There is a story told in Arabia that the angels descended from Heaven to earth and cut open the breast of the Prophet; they took away something that was to be removed from there, and then the breast was made as before. It is a symbolical expression, which gives to a Sufi a key to the secret of human Life.

  • What closes the doors of the heart is fear, confusion, depression, spite, discouragement, disappointment, and a troubled conscience; and when that is cleared away, the doors of the heart open.
  • The opening of the breast, really speaking, is the opening of the heart.
  • The sensation of joy is felt in the center of the breast, also the heaviness caused by depression.
  • Therefore as long as the breast remains choked with anything, the heart remains closed.
  • When the breast is cleared from it, the heart is open.
  • It is the open heart which takes the reflection of all impressions coming from outside.
  • It is the open heart which can receive reflections from the Divine Spirit within.
  • It is the openness of heart, again, which gives power and beauty to express oneself; and
  • if it is closed, a man, however learned, cannot express his learning to others.

This symbolical legend explains also what is necessary in the life of man to allow the plant of divine love to grow in his heart. It is to remove that element which gives the bitter feeling. Just as there is a poison in the sting of the scorpion, and as there is a poison in the teeth of the snake, so there is poison in the heart of man, which is made to be the shrine of God. But God cannot arise in the shrine which is as dead by its own poison; it must be purified first, and made real, for God to arise. The heart [of the Prophet] who had to sympathize with the whole world was thus prepared, that the drop of that poison which always produces contempt, resentment, and ill feeling against another, was destroyed first.

So many talk about the purification of heart, and so few really know what it is. Some say to be pure means to be free from all evil thought of bitterness against another. No one with sense and understanding would like to keep a drop of poison in his body, and how ignorant it is on the part of man when he keeps and cherishes a bitter thought against another in his heart. If a drop of poison can cause the death of the body, it is equal to a thousand deaths when the heart retains the smallest thought of bitterness.

In this legend the cutting open of the breast is the cutting open of the ego, which is as a shell over the heart. And the taking away of that element is that every kind of thought or feeling against anyone in the world has been taken away, and the breast, which means the heart, is filled with love alone, which is the real life of God.

Miraj: the Dream of the Prophet

A story exists in Islam about the dream of the Prophet, a dream which was as an Initiation in the higher spheres. Many take it literally and discuss it, and afterwards go out by the same door by which they came in. It is by the point of view of a Mystic that one can find out the mystery.

It is said that the Prophet was taken from Jerusalem to the Temple of Peace, which means from the outer Temple of Peace to the inner Temple of Peace. A Buraq was brought for the Prophet to ride upon. The angel Jibril accompanied the Prophet on the journey, and guided on the path. Buraq is said to be animal of Heaven which has wings, the body of the horse, and the face of a human being. It means the body connected with the mind. The wings represent the mind, and the body of the Buraq represents the human body; the head represents perfection. Also this is the picture of the breath. Breath is the Buraq which reaches from the outer world to the inner world in a moment's time. Jibril in this story represents reason.

It is said that the Prophet saw on his way Adam, who smiled looking to one side, and shed tears looking to the other side. This shows that the human soul, when it develops in itself real human sentiment, rejoices at the progress of humanity and sorrows over the degeneration of humanity. The Buraq could not go beyond a certain point, which means that breath takes one a certain distance in the mystical realization, but there comes a stage when the breath cannot accompany one. When they arrived near the destination, Jibril also retired, which means that reason cannot go any farther than its limit. Then the Prophet arrived near that curtain which stands between the human and the Divine, and called aloud the Name of God, saying: None exists save Thou," and the answer came: "True, true." That was the final Initiation from which dated the blossoming of Muhammed's prophetic Message.