In this brief lecture, Hazrat Inayat Khan shows that both inner and outer experience are necessary for guidance to help us. This lecture complements the posts on ‘The Inner Voice’, which begin here.
It is the natural tendency of every human being, when he is in a difficulty, to seek guidance, to ask the advice of someone, either of an elderly person or of some friend or relation. People even ask of fortune-tellers – however proud a person may be, if he has the opportunity of asking, he will ask as a joke what will happen in his life.
There are two things: intelligence, the faculty of knowing; and the knowledge that has been acquired and stored. The intelligence is capable of knowing, but it has no knowledge; the knowledge is gathered from without, from all the experience of the world and of life. Every individual has his accumulated store of experience, and so has every family, every nation, and every race. And it is this store of experience that is the stock of knowledge of that family, nation, or race. Therefore we say that this nation is like this, and that nation is like that.
The Sufi says this whole universe was made in order that God might know Himself. The seed wished to realize what it is, what is in it, and therefore became the tree. Sometimes a person asks someone else for guidance, someone living on earth or one who has passed to the other side; sometimes he asks a saint or sage. Whoever is asked can give knowledge only according to the extent of his knowledge. From that store of knowledge that he has gathered, his advice is given. When a person turns for guidance to God, to the inner Being, then all light and all knowledge are his for his guidance.
“But,” people say, “how can we attach ourselves to the inner Being, so as to have that guidance?” When the mind is fixed upon anything, then the person becomes linked to that, a current is established between him and it. It may be called the guidance of God or the guidance of the self. If we look within, God is nearer to us than our mind and our body, because He is that life in which, as is said in the Bible, we live and move and have our being.
The soul has within it the inner faculty of guidance, pointing to the person what to do, which way to go. But often a person does not perceive it, he is in confusion. Many are in confusion and remain in confusion all their life, not knowing what they should do in life. This is because he does not hold to that desire that he has. He desires one thing, and then another wish comes and he lets it go. It is just as if a cook were cooking a good dish and were intent upon it, but the housemaid said to him, “A splendid procession is just passing; you ought to see that,” and he leaves the dish and goes to look at the procession. Then the dish is spoiled.
The guidance from the outer knowledge and the guidance from the inner intelligence are both necessary. If the inner light were enough, then man would never have been created; he would have been an angel. This is explained in a story in the Quran, in which it is told that when God intended to create man He first told the angels of His intention. They said, “O Lord, why wilt Thou create this being, who will shed blood and cause destruction on the earth? Are not we enough to praise Thee and serve Thee? We are everlastingly occupied in Thy praise and service.” Then, when man had been created, God asked him, “What is this, and this, and this?” And he knew the names of all things, of mountain, tree, and stream, and all things on the earth. God said to the angels, “Do ye know the names of all these things?” And they were obliged to confess, “Lord, we do not know the name of anything on earth. We know only Thy praise.”
The meaning of this story is that experience on earth is needed to acquire knowledge. Without it, only the capacity for knowledge is there. If a man wishes to become a doctor, an architect, an engineer, a poet, a musician, and he studies and acquires all the knowledge of the science or art but does not seek the inner guidance, then he will have all knowledge of the rules, but no inspiration, no gift, no power. The contrary mistake has often been made by mystics, who have thought that the inner light is enough, the inner knowledge, without any learning of the external world. There was in India the great poet Kabir, who came of a family of weavers and spoke the language of the weavers, which is full of the commonest expressions. His book is written in that language and with those words. I do not know how he would be appreciated in the West. In India, where they have always had a great esteem for the people of high knowledge, it is held to be as one of the great blessings of God.
The secret of the inner guidance is that on whatever the desire of the soul is fixed, to that the way is cleared and all hindrances are swept aside. If you unswervingly desire anything or to become anything, that you will become. Whether you desire to become an angel or a deva or to be at the feet of God or even more, that you will become. Whatever the self desires, that is its destiny. Therefore one person thinks; “I should go to the war; I should give my life for my nation,” and that is his destiny. And another thinks, “I should not hurt even an insect; I should lead a most harmless life,” and this is his goal.
God bless you.