Hazrat Inayat Khan spoke on a number of occasions concerning the art of personality. As he considered it of such importance, we begin here a second series of posts on the subject.
Beloved Ones of God, I will speak this afternoon on the subject of ‘The art of personality.’ There is a difference between individuality and personality, as there is a difference between nature and art. As much as nature is near to man’s soul, art is closer to his heart. If it were not so, man would have preferred to live in the forest; he would have roamed about in nature and would have been quite satisfied in the wilderness; he would have found the greatest charm in the beauty which is to be seen in the forest. But instead of all that, man has created a world for himself, a world which he has made for himself and in that world he has made a nature of his own imagination, a nature which he calls art. If that is art, then on art much depends.
People may say, “Is it not an imitation of nature?” Yes, it is an imitation of nature. You might say, “Then it is not as great as nature.” But I say, “Both nature and art, both are made by the same Artist.” Nature is made directly by the Artist, and art is made indirectly through the pen of the Artist. Nevertheless, art is the finishing of that beauty which begins to manifest in nature. A person who has not come to this conception of art, he does not yet know the divinity of art.
And now coming to the question, what art has to do with personality. Personality is art itself, and the greatest art. Once a person came to me and said, “My parents brought me up just like a plant in the wilderness, naturally growing.” I said, “It is a great pity,” and she was surprised. What is education, what is culture, what is self development? It is all art, it is all the way for individuality to culminate into personality. In the ancient times, the religious education, and human culture in every form, mainly had personal culture as the central theme of education. And today we are expected to learn mathematics, geography, history and something else, and never the art of personality, which is of greatest use in life.
Apart from its spiritual significance, in our everyday life we see a salesman who is pleasant, who is courteous, whose manner is well, to be a successful salesman. If a seller lacks manner, if he is repellent, he may have all beautiful things in his shop, but he will have no success. If a clerk in the office, a secretary, an assistant, a supervisor, if his personality is charming, if he has a kindly manner, if he has a sympathetic attitude, he will win the affection of all, everything will be light, everything will go smoothly. If a person lacks the art of personality, with all qualifications he may have, the most capable person he may be, yet things will not run smoothly. And so it is at home. A person may be a barrister, a solicitor, a doctor, a most qualified person; but if there is no art of personality, if that art is not developed, he will be disagreeable and unpleasant in his own home and in all walks of life.
The art of personality is the main thing to develop, and if that is not developed, a person has missed a great deal. And if the love of this art has not been given, then what happens? The human being becomes not any better than the lower creation. Is a human being greater because he possesses wealth, or because he has read many books, or because he has learnt much? Is he therefore greater as a human being? No. Man is greater when, from an individual, he has become a person. Very few of us distinguish between individuality and personality. Individuality is that which we have brought with our birth. We are born as a separate entity; that itself makes us an individuality. But personality is something that is acquired; it has not come with us; it is something we gain.
To be continued…