Hazrat Inayat : Art and Religion pt II

This post concludes the short lecture by Hazrat Inayat Khan, begun here.

Man wants something in life upon which he can rely; and this shows, whether he believes in a deity or not, that he is constantly seeking for God. He seeks for Him not knowing that he is seeking for God. Nevertheless, every soul is pursuing some reality, something to hold on to; trying to grasp something which will prove dependable, a beauty that cannot change and that one can always look upon as one’s own, a beauty that one feels will last forever. And where can one find it? Within one’s own heart. And it is the art of finding that beauty, of developing, improving, and spreading that beauty through life, allowing it to manifest before the inner and outer view, which one calls the art of the mystic.

The artist, in the true sense of the word, is the king of a kingdom that is even greater than the kingdoms of the earth. There is a story told in the East of Farabi, the great singer, who was invited to the court of the Amir of Bokhara. The Amir welcomed him very warmly at the court, and as the singer entered the Amir went to the door to receive him. On coming into the throne-room, the Amir asked him to take a seat. ‘But where shall I sit?’ asked the singer. ‘Sit,’ said the Amir, ‘in any place that may seem fitting to you.’ On hearing this, Farabi took the seat of the king. No doubt this astonished the Amir very much; but after hearing the singer’s art he felt that even his own seat was not fitting, for he understood that his kingdom had a certain limitation, whereas the kingdom of the artist is wherever beauty prevails. As beauty is everywhere, so the kingdom of the artist is everywhere.

But art is only a door, a door through which one can enter a still wider area. At different times, the religious have considered art to be something outside them; this has very often been due to a kind of fanaticism on the part of religious authorities. It is so not only in the East, but in the West as well, that one finds a tendency to separate art from religion. This does not mean that some great teacher of religion has taught it; rather, it has come only from people who have not realized religion apart from its form. No one who has touched the depths of religion can ever deny the fact that religion itself is an art, an art that accomplishes the greatest thing in man’s life. And there can be no greater error than to make this art devoid of beauty.

In ancient times in all the Hindu and Buddhist temples and pagodas there was music, there was poetry, there was sculpture, and there was painting. In those times there were no printing presses, and no books could be published on philosophy and religion; but if one can find any scriptures expressing the ancient religious and philosophical ideas, they are in the ancient art. For instance, whatever sign can be found of the mysticism and the religion of ancient Egypt, of which so much has been said and so little is known, it is not in the manuscripts – it is in the art. Also the ideas of the Sanskrit age are still to be found in India engraved on the carved stones, rocks, and temples. Travelers from the Western world often go to the East in order to see the degree of perfection Eastern art attained. Very few really know that art not only strove for perfection in those days, but that those who could not read also used it as a means of communication.

The art of ancient Greece too is a sign and proof of great perfection in divine wisdom. Every movement that we see in Greek art is not only a graceful movement, but also has a meaning; and every statue expresses a certain meaning in its attitude, if only a person can read it. From this, we learn that intuition is necessary both for the making of a work of art and for the understanding of it. This is the very thing which the human race today seems to be losing more than at any other time in the world’s history. One might ask why man has lost that intuitive faculty. It is because he has become so absorbed in material gain that he has become, as it were, intoxicated by the worldly life; and intuition, which is his birthright and his own property, has been lost from view. This does not mean that it is gone from him, only that it has become buried in his own heart.

We are vehicles or instruments that respond. If we respond to goodness, goodness becomes our property. If we respond to evil, then evil becomes our property. If we respond to love, then love becomes our possession. If we respond to hatred, hatred becomes our life. And if we respond to the things of the earth so much that our whole life becomes absorbed in worldly things, then it is quite natural that we should not respond to those riches which are within us, and yet so far removed from us. Intuition is not something that a person can learn by reading books, nor is it a thing that one can buy and sell. Intuition is the very self, and the deepest self of man; and it can be realized by that soberness which is so very desirable in life. Absence of intuition means absence of soberness.

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