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Pearls from the Classes|
5th October 2009
We are looking at some inspired teaching by Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan given in 1923. These are called “The soul towards manifestation.” In other words, what is the soul, when is the soul born, how does the soul come into this world.
Before we start, every being, every soul has a name. Like in Sufism, one of the facilities that is made available to you is to be given a name. That name is not necessarily the final name, but it is an attempt to come close to what your real name is, which is the name given to you by God. In other words, that name is a vibration, and what we are trying to do is to get closer and closer to that vibration. This is the topic tonight, which is looking at the birth of the soul, the beginnings of our consciousness. Last week we talked about the sun. We gave this whole cosmic model. We said it was very much in sync with what we know about cosmology, that in the beginning there was nothing and then there was as contraction. The contraction was the in-breath of the Divine, and in that contraction an enormous gravitational energy develops, and suddenly there is an expansion, an out-breathing of God. That was the beginning of creation. In physics there first was nothing and suddenly there was the big bang. There was an explosion which came from an infinitesimal point. This incredible contraction was like dying, and then there was the life-giving breath, which was the out-breath. That was the breath of the Divine being, and we related it to the sun, and we said that this is why in ancient times the sun, alongside the earth and the moon, has been an extremely important figure in the heavens, in the sky, for ancients to recognise as something of Divinity. We know the sun gives us warmth, the earth turns around the sun, but it is more important than that. It is something transcendental that people recognised about the sun. So they became sun worshippers in Egyptian time. God was seen as the sun. The sun being a star was once a tiny point that expanded out and our own solar system, the planets were given birth by the sun. We use that as a model of saying that is what the original Divine expression was.
This week we continue with the reading. These teachings were given in sequence at the summer school.
“The soul, which is the ray of the divine Sun in one sphere, the sphere in which it does not touch any earthly being, is called angel.“
In the Sufi tradition, a tradition of light, we recognise the sun as one form of light, the earth is one form of being, a physical form. But we recognise there are other forms of light, going all the way back to what we call the Nur-al-anwar, which is the Lord of lights, the original light. That original light is the uncreated light which is called Nur. That light is what he is referring to when he says “The soul which is the ray of the divine Sun in one sphere.” Which is the sphere of unity. That consciousness in which everything is experienced as one, that is where this light is coming from. It comes from that point of oneness. As we read last week, as God contracts and breathes in and then begins to breath out, it is like a birth of rays of light, each ray potentially a soul. That is basically the esoteric explanation of that phrase.
“Therefore every soul passes through the angelic plane. In other words, every soul is an angel before it touches the earthly plane.”
In the beginning there was nothing, and then there was an awakening, consciousness of being. That is what was involved in the contraction that we spoke about. Then comes the out-breathing, which is the expansion. In that expansion consciousness begins to descend, begins to come towards what we call manifestation. At a certain point, the light that is given off by this being which we call God creates vibration and it is that vibration which becomes conscious. That is the birth of the soul. That is the point at which the soul becomes conscious. In technical terms that is what the Sufis call Jabarut, the sphere of light where the soul is born. As far as we are concerned, think of yourself when you have been asleep, remember what it is like when you wake up, from a dreamless sleep, when you start to wake up, there are a few moments in waking in which you are conscious, but you are not conscious of yourself. And then a few moments later you begin to become conscious, you begin to look around the room, you begin to remember yourself. You may not remember your name, or where exactly you are, but you begin to recognise things, and slowly the memory comes back. That is a metaphor for what we are talking about here, it is a a way to personally relate to the teaching that is no different to the whole idea of the birth of creation that in the beginning there was sleep, there was nothing. Then there was an awakening. In that awakening there is consciousness and awareness, After that comes an awareness of something, yourself. Think of that as three stages. That point, awareness of something, of yourself, that is the birth of the soul, that is the birth in which the ray of light becomes conscious of itself, not just the sun but the ray of light becomes conscious of itself. That is the stage of the birth of the soul.
“It is angels who become human beings, and who do not become human beings they remain angels.”
Why? There are some clocks that run for a day, some clocks that run for a week, some for a year, some for longer. Each clock has a different winding mechanism. Think of it in that way. The big clocks have a lot of power, a lot of mechanism. Small clocks have a little power. So it is with the different rays and souls. Some souls have a long power, and they have the power to reach the physical plane. Some souls do not reach the physical plane, they remain in the angelic spheres. They do not have the desire or the strength to go further. These remain as angels. What are we. We were once angels.
“The human being therefore is a grown-up angel.”
At first that sounds absurd. But then you think about it, what about a baby that is born, it is so angelic we cannot but help to remember our own angelicness. We begin to smile, forget our problems. It is in a very innocent, angelic state. The child of curse cannot remain in that state, because it would not survive. There is the development of the mind, of the body, the idea of the social life, being in the world, the limitations of life we have to face. The painful lessons we have learned. The human being is not a child. A child is more angelic. he human being has learned to come to terms with the difficulties of this world to greater or lesser extent and has learned something about the ways of the world and the problems of the world, of creation. Eventually you lose all your faculties, your physical faculties, your mental faculties, and some old people become delightfully angelic in their old age, such that we find them very loveable. Some of course remain difficult, they tend to be hooked in the mind, hooked on something. The ones that actually are free, free to die, free of the rat race, they can actually smile, you can tell them your problems and they tell you that you will be all-right and you believe it. There is something about our nature, we have taken on the body and the mind, and in that sense we lose sense of our angelicness, we lose awareness of it.
“Angel therefore is a soul who never grew up. Infants who come on earth with their angelic qualities and sometimes pass away without having experienced the life of the grown-up man, show us the same picture of the original condition of the soul. The idea that the angels are nearer to God, according to this doctrine is right. Souls who have not journeyed further, are naturally close to the Divine Spirit; they are angels. Someone asked the Prophet why man was greater than the angels, man who caused all the bloodshed on the earth and angels who always occupy themselves in the praise of God. The answer was that the angels knew not anything of the earth. They knew God and so they occupied themselves with God.”
There is a beautiful story that Hazrat Inayat Khan tells. In the beginning the angles gathered around God. God said “I have created man.” The angels looked down and saw those pathetic creatures, scrambling around for food. God said “I would like you to bow down to them.” Lucifer said “What - those lowly creatures, so far removed from you? And here I am at your right hand side.” And the angels agreed. So God struck a deal. “One of you should go down, join the human beings, become a human being, and one of you will half way through check them out.” One angel volunteered to become a human being. He sees the beautiful fruits of the earth, and not just sees them as in heaven, but tastes them. “this is exquisite!” He sees a beautiful woman walking by and he falls in love. Before long they are together, they start a family. Now he has a real problem. He has a mortgage, comes home at night exhausted, does not want to play with the kids, just wants to unplug the TV and rest. It goes on like this. n the midst of all this his friend, the other angel, comes down to visit him. He says “What is it like?” “Oh God, you do not have any idea of the problems we have here on earth. You get pain and suffering, you get limitations, you get wars, you get people who are unjust and unfair, you get greed and hatred. The other angel is frightened, because angels are innocent, and flies back in a hurry, and tells the other angels “This is the difficulty human beings have living on earth.” And God says “Now you see, when such beings suffer such limitation remember me, even when they are suffering, then I bow to them, and you should do the same.”
The moral of the story is that it is no easy undertaking t be a human being, but to actually remember your origins, your angelicness, your light, to remember your maker, your creator in the midst of all this is no mean feat, it is a wonderful, inspiring thing. That is what he says “The human being is therefore a grown-up angel.”
“But man is greater, for when he comes on earth, he has much to occupy with in the world and still he pursues after God. That angelic sphere is pure of passions or emotions which are the source of all the wrong and sin; souls, pure of all greeds and desires that the denseness of earth gives, are angels who know nothing else but happiness, for happiness is the real nature of the soul.”
Our angelic nature has taken on the mind and body, and because we have taken on a mind and a body we are subject to the limitations of these faculties. Our body needs feeding, cleaning, rest, all kinds of things. One does not experience this as an angel. We have growing pains, accidents, we get sick. As we get old we have great physical difficulties. We take that on. The mind sees “I am me, you are you” - dualistic thinking starts quite easily. It takes an enormous struggle to overcome dualistic thought, that limitation of the mind. The mind is a wonderful instrument that can help us enormously, but the mind doe snot give you answers to the meaning of life, it does not answer where you come from and where you go, why there is suffering, why we were create in the first place. One has to experience this. One has to experience the birth of one’s soul, which one can do. One has to experience one’s being of light, one’s angelicness, to begin to recognise these things. n other words, to experience being free of the body and the mind.
When we are free of the mind and the constraints of our body we revert to our original condition, which is bliss. That is why we go on retreat. We are free of the body and the mind.
“Hindus call angels suras. Sura means breath also and breath means life. Suras therefore mean pure lives, lives that live long. In Hindu Scriptures there is another word used: asura, meaning lifeless, in other words mortals whose life has been caught in the net of mortality.”
This is a very important phrase, because on the one hand we can experience the divine life in us, once we are free of the mind in the body we can begin to live with God. But when we forget that, when we are preoccupied with what is in our mind and what is in our body, we begin to occupy that mortal state which becomes lifeless. This is why we have such a terrible fear of death, we think that death is the end of life, whereas it is simply a transition. This life is just a blink of the eyelid of the eye in existence. This life is just one blink, but we have to experience that: When we forget that we are impressed with the idea of death.
“Man may continue to retain angelic quality even in his life on the earth as a human being and it is the angelic quality which can be traced in some souls who show innocence and simplicity in their lives, which is not necessarily foolishness. It only shows the delicacy of a flower in a personality together with fragrance. Angelic souls are inclined to love, to be kind and to be dependent upon those who show them some love. They are ready to believe, willing to learn, inclined to follow that which seems to them for the moment good, beautiful and true.”
There are some souls who perhaps carry a stronger impression of their angelic nature, and those souls are the ones he is referring to. But all souls originated as angels, and it simply takes that effort that is needed to remember that condition.
A very useful practice is that of the witness, witnessing ourselves. Witnessing our mind and our body. Who is the witness? It is you, your angelic nature that is witnessing what you call your self, the kind of things you are thinking about, feeling. The practice is Ya-Shahid, the witness, that divine quality that helps us to experience our celestial, angelic nature. In quietness we relax the body, the mind, thoughts subside, and we listen in our own inner silence.
The angelic state in us longs for peace in us, to feel loved. At some point when the heart really opens we experience that feeling, we are loved. We long to see the light, that light of our origin. We long for beauty. All these things are the desires of the soul. Very different to the desires the soul experiences in the world. The answer to the desire for power is that the divine power is in you. Worldly power is only temporary. The desire for wealth: the greatest wealth is in your soul, it is permanent. The desire for happiness, to seek happiness in life, you find it within you. In the world happiness comes and goes, but that eternal happiness is to be found in your own heart. The heart is the organ of the soul.
“The picture of the angels as we read in the Scriptures, sitting upon the clouds and playing on harps, is but an expression of a mystic secret. Playing the harp is vibrating harmoniously. One can see in a person who is vibrating harmoniously, his presence becomes the inspiration of music and poetry. The person whose heart is tuned to the pitch of the angelic spheres, will show on earth the heavenly bliss. Therefore the wise seek the association of the spiritual beings. And sitting on the clouds means that the angels are above all clouds. The clouds are for the beings of the dense earth; they are free from the momentary pleasures and continued spells of depression. Clouds do not touch them; they are above clouds.”
There was a question and answer session after this talk.
Question: “Have the angels not any contribution or relation to human life?”
Answer: “They have, as that of a little child and a grown-up person.”
(All quotes: Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan - Lecture “The Soul towards Manifestation” given at the Suresnes Summer School on 11th August 1923 from the Complete Works of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan - Original Texts: Lectures on Sufism, 1923 II: July-December)
An interesting thing to say. What can children do for us? They bring us joy. They remind us to be truthful. They remind us of our innocence. They cannot help us with our problems, how to solve them. How far can angels help a human being? As far as an infant can help a grown-up person.
The angelic state is not something that is to be achieved by gong back to being like a child, but something we can remember. We can remember our own innocence. Not through our mind, but through our experience. We clear ourselves, from our thoughts, our worries, our anger, our envy, we begin to re-experience that innocence, that clarity which is the angelic condition. The purpose of that is to remember it. It has the effect to remind us how to be free. When we reflect we realise how caught we are in our own little world, what kind of prison we have made for ourselves in our life, and we do not know that until we experience that freedom, the freedom of our soul, when we are free of all thoughts and cares.