Hazrat Inayat Khan here gives a very clear explanation of a very subtle matter: how we may understand the soul. The previous post in the series may be found here.
DAY and night are not conditions of the sun; they are conditions in themselves. The sun neither rises nor sets – it is our conception; it is more convenient to speak of the rising of the sun and the setting of the sun. If anything rises and sets, it is the world, and not the sun. When the world turns its back to the sun, it is night; when the world turns its face to the sun, it is day.
It is the same with the soul’s awakening. The soul is always awake. But what is it awake to? Someone may be looking with open eyes, but what is he looking at? Is he looking upward or downward or sideways? A person is only conscious of the direction in which he is looking.
To speak of the soul’s awakening, therefore, is for the sake of convenience. What part of us is it which may be called ‘soul’ ? As it is not our body, then what is it? It is something which is beyond the body and beyond the mind. It is conscious, and at the same time its consciousness is not as we understand it, for the word ‘consciousness’ conveys that one is conscious of something. Though not everyone knows what consciousness means, everyone knows what he is conscious of. For instance a mirror in which something is reflected is not only a mirror, but it is a mirror with a reflection, which means it is occupied, it is not empty. When a person speaks of consciousness, he cannot think of the original condition; he can think only of the consciousness which is conscious of something. As soon as we distinguish between the consciousness and what it is conscious of, we separate them, as we separate the mirror from what is reflected in it.
When one has realized this, one will come to the conclusion that the soul of the wise and of the foolish, of the sinner and the virtuous, are one and the same. The wickedness of the wicked and the goodness of the good, the ignorance of the foolish and the wisdom of the wise, are apart from the soul: the soul is conscious of it. When another person is conscious of it, he may say that here is a wise or an ignorant soul. But the soul is the same; it is not the soul which is ignorant or wise, wicked or virtuous, but what is reflected in it. At the same time one should know that if an elephant is looking into a mirror, the mirror is not the elephant, but one can see an elephant in the mirror. But if a man does not know what a mirror is, he will say that here is an elephant, although it is only its reflection; it is nothing but a mirror when it is free from this reflection. The moment the reflection is removed, the mirror will again be just a mirror.
And so it is with the soul. Man makes it miserable, wicked, ignorant, wise, or illuminated by being conscious of these things. The soul is neither the one nor the other. The soul is only soul. This misconception creates great difficulties.
If the soul is conscious, what is it then? The best explanation one can give is that it is the essence of all things; it is life, but not life in the sense we understand it; that is only a suggestion of life. The soul is the real life. We say of one who moves and sees and hears and acts that he is a living being, but what is living in him is the soul. The soul is not seen, and therefore life is not seen. Life has touched a person, and therefore on seeing the effect of that touch one says, ‘He is living, it is life’. But what we see is only a suggestion of life which appears and disappears. Life is living and never dies.
To be continued…