In the first instalment of this series of posts, Hazrat Inayat Khan concluded by saying that if we attempt to begin at the end, we will end at the beginning – that we cannot jump to the conclusion if we wish to succeed. Now in this post he begins to speak about stages of belief.
We might think, why in this short life should we create for ourselves a kind of illusion, why should we only arrive at the truth at the end? Why not begin with it? But if truth were such that it could be spoken of in words, I would have been the first to give it to you. Truth is a thing that must be discovered; we have to prepare ourselves to realize it, and it is that preparation which is called religion or occultism or mysticism. Whatever we may call it, it is that preparation. We prepare ourselves by one way or the other in order to realize truth in the end. And the best way, which all the thinkers and sages have adopted, is the way of God.
The next question is belief in God. There are four stages of belief in God. Each stage is as essential and important as the other. And if one does not go stage by stage, gradually evolving towards the realization of God, one does not arrive at anything. It must be remembered that belief is a step on the ladder. Belief is the means and not the end. It leads to realization. It is not that we advance towards a belief. If a man’s foot is nailed on the ladder, that is not the object. The object is that he should climb upward on the ladder step by step. If he stands still on the ladder he defeats the object for which he journeys on the spiritual path. Those, therefore, who believe in a particular creed, in a religion, in God, in the hereafter, in the soul, in a certain dogma, are no doubt blessed by their belief, and think they have something. But if they remain there, there will be no progress.
If the only thing necessary was to have a religious belief, then thousands and millions of people in the world today who have a certain religious belief could have been most advanced people. But they are not. They go on year after year believing something that people have believed perhaps for many generations, and still they continue with it and remain there, just like a man standing on a staircase, which is a place not made for him to stand on but to climb up. When he stays there he comes to nothing.
The first belief is the mass-belief. If someone says, ‘There is a God,’ then everyone repeats after him, ‘Yes, there is a God.’ One might think that today, at this stage of civilization, people are too advanced to have mass-beliefs, but that would be a great mistake. People are the same today as they were a thousand years ago – perhaps worse, if it comes to spiritual questions. Someone who is called ‘the man of the day’ in a nation, is for the time being supported by the whole nation. Thousands and millions lift him up, hold him high. But for how long? Until some still more powerful person says, ‘No, it is not so.’ Then the whole country lets him down.
Just before the war I was visiting Russia. In every shop one saw a picture of the Czar and Czarina, held in high esteem. It was a sacred thing for people. There was a religious ideal attached to the emperor, as he was the Head of the Church. And they used to be filled with joy when they saw the Czar and Czarina passing in the street. It was a religious upliftment for them. But not long afterwards they themselves had processions in the streets when at each step they broke the czarist emblems. It did not take them one moment to change their belief. Why? Because it was a mass-belief.
Mass belief is a very powerful belief. It changes nations. It throws them down and raises them up. It brings war. But what is it, after all? A mad belief. And yet no one will admit it. If you ask an individual, he says, ‘I am not one of them.’ Yet at the same time all move together when an impulse comes for good or bad.
To be continued…