With this post we begin a subtle and challenging topic on the work of guidance in the world, and the easily misconstrued idea of spiritual government. These teachings could be helpful in understanding the work of the Sufi Message in this age.
We first see this tendency of guidance in a slight degree in the parents, who, whatever their own life may have been, still wish their children to be benefitted by their experience, that the children may live aright. There are to be found some rare people in this world of selfishness who warn their friends from going astray. We find a leader in a community who sacrifices his life and benefit for that of his fellow men, uniting them in the bond of love and harmony. The same attribute of self-sacrifice in its higher grade of evolution is seen among the masters of humanity, who act as officials of the infinite government and who are known in the world as messengers, avatars, or god-heads. Among them are to be found holy beings of different grades, recognized by Sufis as Wali, Ghaus, Qutb, Nabi, and Rasul. They differ from each other according to the extent of their reach in the world unseen, and how vast a space they occupy in the universal consciousness, and also how large a circle of humanity is given under their control for guidance.
Nabi is the guide of a community, Rasul has a message for the whole of humanity, each having a certain cycle of time for his message. The mystic therefore sees in the masters of humanity not only the deliverers of the divine message, but sees them as the spiritual sovereign, controllers of the universe during their cycles. There is a cycle for every aspect of the life of an individual, and the life of the world. In the life of an individual the period from his birth to his death is the first half, and from death to assimilation in infinity is the second half. The sub-cycle in man’s life is from infancy to youth, where ends the half, and from youth to age, where it finishes.
There is again an under-cycle of infancy, of childhood, of youth, of age, and the cycle of man’s rise and fall. So there is the cycle of the life of the world; and the cycle of the creation of man and his destruction; the cycle of the reign of the races and nations; and the cycle of time such as a year, a month, a week, a day, and an hour. The nature of each of these cycles shows three aspects: the beginning, the culmination, and the end – which are named uruj, kamal, and zaval – such as new moon, full moon, and waning moon; the sunrise, the zenith, and the sunset. These cycles, sub-cycles, and under-cycles, and the three aspects of their nature, are divided and distinguished by the nature and course of light.
And as this light of sun and moon and of planets plays the most important part in the life of the world, individually and collectively, so the light of the spirit of guidance also divides time into cycles. Each cycle therein has been under the influence of a certain master, with so many controllers of the whole world under him, working as a universal government to control the affairs mostly concerning the spiritual condition of the world inwardly. Numberless have been the masters since the human creation, who appeared in a certain name and form, but He alone was disguised in them Who is the only Master of Eternity.
There was a cycle of spiritual meditation during the minority [i.e. the period before adulthood] of the world’s life, and when it came to full age that was the period of the coming of Muhammad. For all who came before – Abraham, Moses, Christ – promised the world that someone else would come, as the guardian of a child would say, “I have to go, but another guardian will be appointed,” for the child was yet a minor. By Muhammad’s plain declaration of the sacred statement, “la ilaha illa-llahu, none exists save God,” he entrusts the world with the knowledge of unity, which so far was being constantly and gradually uncovered step by step. By the declaration it was unveiled fully. This is what is meant by the seal of prophecy, that after this culmination there begins the new era when the spiritual government so established hitherto may work without an open claim, and teachers may advise as an adviser, not as a guardian or a mediator.
To be continued…