“Understanding that our world is made up of opposites underscores the importance of choice. It is the exercise of choice in the moment through which we create any outcome, good or bad. When we reach a crossroad, it is indeed useful to be guided by something bigger than ourselves.”
What should we be guided by?¶
To start with, the world is not made of opposites. It manifests as opposites. Its essence is One, its attributes all relate to the One, and its physical manifestations are all - in every way - permeated and are living, moving, and changing by the One. So, we seek to be guided by that which is forever reliable. In other words, it is the nature of this reality that it manifests in time and space, but its energising force - its creative governing principle - is from beyond time and space.
We need to constantly refer to that zone which is steady, constant, ever-reliable and ever-secure. In other words, God-within-us or the soul. We need to refer to that constantly in order to make sense out of ever-changing situations, all of which draw our attention to our need to choose appropriately so that we always end up in a state of equilibrium and homeostasis. We each need to have some reference point. That is the guidance we seek.
We want guidance which is not subject to change, which is not subject to the relative ups and downs. I am subjected constantly, minute-to-minute in each of my senses, to things which change and yet I want to steer a course which gives me that inner constancy so that, in my heart, I am content and happy. Therefore, I need that reference to a zone which is forever reliable, which is what I call the soul. And my access to the soul is through my heart, because the soul dwells in my heart. If the heart is pure, then I have access to it. If it is not, then I am already coloured by my own lenses.
What is the relationship between the heart and the soul?¶
The heart provides access to my soul. Soul is, if you like, an abstract energy or a divine zone which is undefinable. My heart is definable. My heart gets tarnished. I get suspicious and I get saddened. Sadness is not in my memory: memory causes sadness. So, my heart is that zone which is between my soul and my higher self, or the intellect.
How do you use memory?¶
Well, memory relates to the different layers of consciousness. As a baby, I develop the first layer by seeing the mother, or seeing movement and motion. In time, it becomes more like a bank or vault which contains pictures, and then the meanings of pictures. Thus, when I see something I liked, it immediately triggers off a desire to attain it again. Or, the reverse: I have in my mind something which was disagreeable, which immediately triggers in my mind the meaning of disagreeability.
My mind is constantly used in order to steer an existential balance, with reference to that constant point within, but it is - in itself - tricky! Ultimately, my mind is the imprisonment of my higher consciousness. It is the veil of that higher consciousness. I must have a good mind, but then transcend it. I must have a pure heart, and refer to the higher element which is within it. I do not deny the mind, but I must not be constantly subjected to the mind.
The intellect also reflects the higher. It reflects the soul. Therefore, it is more rational. It is not subject to my personal emotions. I can refer to you with my intellect, not through my emotions. I have had a different upbringing, different exposures and experiences - as have you - but where we can meet is through intellect, reasoning and - higher than that - through our hearts; which is unconditional love. It is seeing, in each other, one another.
What tarnishes the heart?¶
[It may occur when you think you have reached] a point of contentment with the soul but have been deflected. It’s very subtle. It is where I have trusted somebody, and they have let me down, because trust is to do with the soul. It is to do with the higher attributes. So, I was about to trust my soul, I was about to reach… but I got deflected by trusting the other fellow too long, or too much without letting that stepping stone (of trusting a person) lead me to the trusting zone within me. That is why it gets tarnished. It is more than emotional grief, you see. With the mind, you can easily talk about grief, but this point about tarnishing is too subtle.
Where do terms like ‘personality’ and ‘character’ fit in?¶
Repetitiveness. If I repeat these patterns, then my personality becomes pessimistic or optimistic, or inward-looking, outward-looking etc. It is the repetitiveness, the constancy, of a certain pattern or a certain style of driving along this map which gives me this label.
But it has no permanent reality! If I realise the higher potential within me, I can change. I can say, “My trait has been this” or “I have short feet,” but it is of no real consequence. I may have been brought up with great difficulty in the ghettos, but it is of no consequence! My mentality now, or my heart, is above the above; it has nothing to do with the “ghetto mentality” that I had experienced. Each one of us has that potential.
This is where hope is: that you may have started building your layers of consciousness in that domain, but you are - essentially - the highest consciousness, pure consciousness, so it can eradicate, it can override, all of those misfortunes.
Is cultivating awareness of the higher within you just a case of clear discernment?¶
We can’t help but choose. And the choice starts with the lower self, in fact. I constantly want to bring forth, or attract, that which I consider desirable and repel that which I consider undesirable. From the beginning, a child does that, as does any grownup. We are all the time trying to bring forth that which we think - at that moment - is good for us and avoid that which we think - at that moment - is bad for us.
If you measure the good and the bad in terms of longevity or durability, then you are nearer to the reference of truth and guidance within you. In other words, what is ultimately good for me is to have access to a zone that constantly thrills me and gives me personal contentment and happiness. That is really what is good, without a bad.
Every other good can be bad. What is good for me now can be bad for me tomorrow. What is good for a kid can be ridiculous for an adult, and vice versa. Good and bad are relative in themselves. There is no such thing as permanent good or permanent bad, except One Absolute Good. That is the knowledge of the Light which permeates all other lights and all other shadows. That is Absolute Good.
If my following the good leads me to that, then I am on the right path. If it does not, then I am following what is transient and am just moving from one exercise to another, from one project to another and - at the end - is disappointment.
Can you define the soul? What happens in birth and death?¶
The soul is a reflector of the Divine, Absolute, All-Permeating, All-Encompassing, Eternal Light. If you like, it carries the same essence as the Lord, as the Creator, but - if you like - in a more containable, confinable, definable fashion. We don’t know its nature, because within it lies the programs of all nature, and nurture!
It is like a battery that is self-charging, which is within both me and you. Though I refer to it as “my soul”, in reality - I am His, because He is the governing principle. This is where, again, there is a paradox. It is my soul, and yet It governs me. If I yield to It, then I am full of that Light. If I don’t, then I am only good as a reflector of how far my shadows stretch from It.
The perfect patterns of all of the desirable attributes are contained within my soul. I as an ego manifest Its shadows. Through turning away from those shadows, I am turning towards my soul. All that I have is a soul!
So the soul is an immortal entity?¶
Sure. At the point of death, what remains is the extent of these veils that I have lifted, by courtesy of the soul, and therefore I lead into the next world according to the condition in which I have left this world. So-called resurrection occurs according to how I have gone into the next world.
It is like a bulb with a lamp shade around it. The lamp shade is my ego: my veils, memories, and value system. The more transparent those are, the less there is to account for in the next life, or all the other things which come with the horrors of being questioned.
If we think of the soul as being ongoing, why are we afraid of death?¶
Because we have not yet got familiar with the ongoingness of the soul. We have become familiar with the transitory nature of this world. I have been so familiar with, and accustomed to, causality and the changing world and I have grown clever in terms of manipulating it - and everybody else in site as well [laughs] - that I have neglected being absorbed and guided and led by soul.
If I am led by my soul, I will never be misled, nor will I mislead.
That also brings up the question of leadership. If I am not led by the source of leadership in me, what qualification do I have to lead others? I will simply mislead them.
Does this relate to the paradox that you are in this world and not of this world?¶
Sure. We are in this world in order to see how it reflects what is beyond it; beyond time and space. This world is subject to change and we are seeking the world from which it emanated, which is not subject to change. One entity, One essence; manifesting in infinite varieties. Varieties are interesting to begin with if they lead me to the meaning behind them. And that meaning leads me to One essence.
All of the meanings, all of the Divine attributes converge to an Essence. The Divine attributes of Ever-Forgiving, the Ever-Knowing, the Ever-Loving, the Ever-Merciful all lead to One essence, from which all the varieties of great attributes which we adore have emanated and which sustains them. We can’t talk about God or Allah. We can talk only about the attributes, which we know - within ourselves - are desirable.
Most great enlightened beings, prophets and messengers, have referred to this. “Be ready for that transformation into the next zone of consciousness,” they have said. Be ready to die in terms of transcending your senses and your mind and your memory and this contained, confined, four-dimensional world. Which means: be willing to go beyond this limitation.
It doesn’t mean that you renounce this world, or that you try in any way to avoid it. You just see the meaning of it - that alludes to something boundless, limitless - and you enter into that zone through deep reflectiveness, abandonment, submission, and emptiness. This is what we all love!
In fact, holidays - and every other attempt we make to experience leisure - are about entering into a zone that is beyond this limiting factor of cause and effect; the up and the down which we are naturally, biologically subjected to.
To die before you die means you are at the zone of the Ever-Living, or with that consciousness in you.
Do I, as an individual, then contain infinity?¶
This is why I said you are in this world, but not of this world. You are of an infinite, boundless dimension, caught in the prison of this world. But once you realise the qualities of the prison warden, then you also love this world. This world will only be an indication of the world beyond. It is not to be resented. It is simply not to be attached to, because you cannot hold it.
You cannot fix this world, except in a camera or on film - which is why everyone likes to put on their “best face” when they are photographed. So a photograph is a lie, betraying the truth. It’s a lie in that it’s no longer: you are no longer that. But it betrays - or flashes - a momentary truth about how, in that instant, you stretched your mouth into a smile.
What is the relationship between the individual and the collective?¶
We are always looking for mirrors. Initially, the parents are mirrors and, if they are cracked, then the children are also cracked and we are going to produce a horrendous future generation. This is why the reliability, availability, presence, and concern of the mother matters so much. Then comes the love of the father, and then this circle of concern widens out into the society at large.
We need that mirroring until you discover that reflectiveness is within you. You find that there is a constant companion in you that reflects you!
It will also help to have a teacher that you refer to every now and then, when you are at a crossroads. Until you find that that teacher is in you! So you have the constant, perpetual, spontaneous awareness of awareness, and of awareness of awareness of awareness. Which means that you have access to your highest zone of pure awareness, combined with your awareness of something which is contaminated: this particular noise, or that particular voice etc.
What is the importance of role models? Is there such a person?¶
Sure. The first role model is usually the mother in that she is reliable (hopefully!) and, when the baby cries, she is there. Which is why there is a very strong bond between the two. Eventually, your role model is he who you know, within yourself, has access constantly to the reliable zone in themselves. In other words, a person who is enlightened, a person who knows that they are functioning in multifaceted ways at multiple levels of consciousness, but essentially always with access to the pure, higher consciousness within. That is why you say, “He is a reliable teacher.”
One description of a great teacher - Baba Farid - was that, “We have never seen him different, at any time, although every time was different from the one before!” In other words, you do respond to events, but with a constant appropriateness. You are not fixated on being seen in some specific way; you do not become a sphinx, expecting people to say, “Now he is a realised person.”
You are constantly, at all times, instantly encompassing the zone of the limited while having access to, and reflecting, the limitless. The two combined!
What role does leadership play?¶
Well, you are always misled, unless you are led by what we are talking about. Everything else is just different layers of being misled. It is too short-lived to only be concerned about this moment’s pleasure of what goes in my mouth, or what I see right now. I want a more durable comfort zone, or period of happiness. This desire for more durability means you are only led by that which never misleads you. That is, essentially, God and His agent in you, which is your soul. His messenger in you.
We also know the profile of the great messengers and their models. If you live as though you are surrounded by them, then you have constant referencing. What would the Prophet have done, had he been here? Ask him! You will eventually begin to have the answer from within you…
What would be the prescription for a higher order in society today?¶
It is for most members of the society to want the highest; the permanent; the eternal; the zone of no conflict, which emanates from themselves. So, it would be a self-governing society, with the best amongst us used - collectively - as reference points.
Does Islam have a role to play? What are its challenges?¶
Well, Islam is the optimum code of conduct to live by, if people absorb and live it. Otherwise it becomes yet another entity talked and argued about, but not lived. That is why Islam is forever applicable and usable, but Muslims function only according to their ability to absorb it, live by it and be transformed by it. So, of course, it is the most easy way to adopt and follow and live by.
The challenges altogether are the same as for every individual and every society, in that we all want to have access to a zone that allows us to journey through this world, exhibiting safe conduct, leading to a safe arrival which also transcends the limitations of this world, so that we are ready for the Garden. The entire business is motivated by love of the eternal Garden and its permanent perfections. We are practicing it here in this world, so that - by the time of departure, when the soul leaves the body - you are already soaring in a zone that you are prepared for, not something strange or unknown. Inwardly, you are already experiencing the Garden. Then you are, in every way, taken away from its shadows of this world.
What is the role of saints, sages, and monks in society’s life?¶
Again, it’s like role models. We love people who have been emancipated, who have been freed from what we normally are imprisoned, overwhelmed or depressed by. So, I love the person who is more knowledgeable than I; who is more emancipated, more free than I; more contained, more steady, more reliable, more trustworthy than I.
They are, again, different frequencies manifesting as human beings, which leads me to the original, divine frequency of yielding unconditionally, of loving passionately, listening without hearing, just knowing that it is the True Voice.
What is the illness of the world today and what can we do to avoid falling into the same trap?¶
Illnesses and cures don’t change. The illness is deflection and deviation, and the cure is knowledge, acknowledgement, and contentment.
What has happened now in this world is that individuals have been so separated from the usual collective mirroring of a family or a community or a society, that I think that the ills of today can become - in fact - a tremendous impetus towards the remedy of tomorrow. This is because individuals must become responsible. You have no uncle or aunt or village people to run after you and reprimand you. You have to reprimand yourself so that you maintain a clearer and much more immediate reference to the higher in you.
You have to become responsible for yourself, by yourself. You know that, if you have deviated from that upward vision, you are punishing yourself by your misdeeds, not because of them. God does not punish you and I. We punish ourselves by our stupidity, by not constantly referring to the highest in us.
Society, which is fragmented right now, can equally rise more quickly if the individuals within it take that spiritual responsibility upon themselves.
If the prescription is personal responsibility, what is the role of culture and civilization?¶
It is both: there has to be self-reliance and there has to be reflectiveness from others in society. Then this mirroring can reach a crescendo. There have been occasions in human history where there have been very, very high spiritual effulgences, and the reverse. There is this self-enhancing situation of frenzy, which can be positive or negative. If there are enough people in society who are more and more tuned to the higher in them, then naturally that society will flourish in a highly spiritual way, and vice versa.
It is related. I contain a universe, and the universe outside me is - in a way - a reflector of me. I naturally end up where that outer universe enhances my universe. That’s why we are in different places with different people, doing different activities. The like seeks the like. Spiritual people end up being closer together, artists closer together, thieves closer together and so on. You end up wanting to reflect and constantly reinforce the state of consciousness that you are in.
If you are attaining higher and higher inner bliss, then you are more and more independent of others, more and more self-reliant, and you have less and less self-image or self-concern, because now you have a soul concern. It is a displacement. People who come to you, or whom you meet are then of a similar tendency. It is a natural movement, which seeks its own confirmation. We want to be confirmed, all the time.
Is there hope?¶
Constantly! More and more. The more there is distortion, the more there can be assertion of the truth. The more there are lies, the more they actually indicate the other side - the light of which they are the shadow. They go together. Difficult times can be an opportunity to usher in easy times. But ease can only last if it is the ease of the higher, not the ease of comfort and luxury, because there is no end to that.