Having brought us through the various stages of belief, Hazrat Inayat Khan now speaks of the ideal of God, and how it leads us to perfection. the previous post in the series is here.
And now we come again to the question of God. Because this is the important question we must first make it clear in our minds before we take a further step in spiritual progress. Since to analyze God means to dethrone God, the less said on the subject the better. But at the same time, the seekers for truth who want to tread the spiritual path with open eyes and whose intellect is hungering for knowledge, should know something about it.
There is a Hebrew story that once Moses was walking near the bank of a river. And he saw a shepherd boy speaking to himself. Moses was interested and halted there to listen to what he was saying. The shepherd boy was saying, ‘O God, I have heard so much of You. You are so beautiful, You are so lovely, You are so kind, that if You ever came to me I would clothe You with my mantle, and I would guard You night and day. I would protect You from the cruel animals of this forest, and bathe You in this river, and bring to You all good things, milk and buttermilk. I would bring You a special bread. I love You so much. I would not let anyone cast his glance upon You. I would be all the time near You. I love You so much! If only I could see You once, God, I would give all I have.’ Moses said, ‘What are you saying!’ The boy looked at Moses and trembled and was afraid. ‘Did I say anything wrong?’ he asked. Moses said, ‘God, the Protector of all beings, you think of protecting Him, of giving Him bread? He gives bread to the whole universe. You say you would bathe Him in the river. He is the purest of all pure things. And how can you say that you will guard Him, who guards all beings?’ And the boy trembled. He thought, what a terrible thing I have done! He seemed to be lost. But as Moses went a few steps further there came a voice, ‘Moses, what did you do! We sent you to bring our friends to Us, and now you have separated one. No matter how he thought of Us, he thought of Us just the same. You should have let him think the way he was thinking about Us. You should not have interfered with him!’ Everyone has his own imagination of God. It is best if everyone is left to his own imagination.
In our daily life we may hate someone, yet the same one is loved by someone else. We may criticize, and the same one is praised by someone else. If this is so, then the conception of everyone is different. The same person is considered a saint by one and Satan by another. The God we know, or can know, is nothing but our conception, a picture that we have made of God for our own self, our own use. It is the greatest mistake for anyone to interfere with the conception of God held by another, or to think that another should have the same conception of God as he has himself. It is impossible. Many different artists have painted the picture of Christ, yet each one is different. And since we allow every artist to have his own conception of Christ, so we should allow every person to have his own conception of God.
We need not blame the ancient Chinese and Greeks and Indians who believed in many gods. Many gods is too small a number. In reality every single person has his own God. Besides all the different conceptions are really nothing but covers over one God. Let them call God by any name, or think of Him with whatever imagination they have: it is after all the highest ideal. And the ideal of each one is as high as his imagination can make it. Urging upon someone that God is abstract and formless and pure, and that God is nameless, all these things do not help that person to evolve, for the first step on the path of God is to make a conception of God. It is simply to help the seekers after God that the wise in all ages have sometimes made a small statue and called it a god or goddess. They said, ‘Here is God. Here is a shrine. Come there.’ And to the one who was not satisfied with this, they said, ‘Walk two hundred times round the shrine before you enter, then you will be blessed.’ When the worshipper got tired he naturally felt exaltation because he walked in the path of God.
But, one might ask, if we leave everyone with his particular imagination or ideal of God, will he then progress and one day come to the realization of the self which is the highest attainment taught by all great teachers of humanity? The answer is yes. There are three stages on the way to spiritual perfection. Those who are unaware of the possibility of spiritual perfection are greatly mistaken when they say that man is imperfect and cannot be perfect. They are mistaken for the reason that they have seen only man in man. They have not seen God in man. Christ has said, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ This shows that there is the possibility of perfection. It is also true that man cannot be perfect. But man is not man alone. In man there is also God. Therefore, though man remains imperfect, the God part in man seeks for perfection. That is what the world was created for. Man is here on earth for this one purpose, that he may bring forth that spirit of God in him and thus discover his own perfection.
To be continued…