The soul and what is around it live on each other. It is the attention of the soul which feeds the mind and body, and it is the contact of mind and body which gives the outward life to the soul. The soul is robbed of its life, light and power by its contact with the mind and body, with every action, speech, thought or feeling, and this constant spending of energy weakens, dims, and, so to speak, mortalises the soul. But the only way by which the soul realises itself to be alive is by its contact with body and mind; in their absence it has no evidence of its being.
The ancient Sufis were asked the reason, or the purpose of this creation. They replied, “To break the monotony of loneliness God has made this creation.” When this is explained according to the metaphysical point of view it is said that the soul, which is consciousness by nature, cannot come to consciousness if there be nothing to be conscious of; but at the same time the object of which the soul becomes conscious deludes it, so that it identifies itself with that which it sees, thereby forgetting its own existence, the nature of which is to see, or to become conscious.
Knowing the mystery of life, the Sufi creates a balance in life by attaching the soul to the mind and body at will and by detaching it from them. It is this process of detachment from one’s own mind and body that is the central theme of the inner cult. It is the same thing which is called by the prophets dying before death. Self-denial is misunderstood by many. Self-denial does not mean denying all things to the self. The true meaning of self-denial is denying the self to the self. And this is done by the process of detachment which in the language of the mystics is called alchemy.
When one has arrived at this realisation there is no power which is beyond his reach nor any inspiration far from his achievement. By this process one makes oneself gold, and the process culminates in making the life within and without and all around a life of gold. A coward cannot accomplish this task; it is the work of the courageous and brave, for this is the aim of all religions and the goal of all spiritual souls.