Hazrat Inayat Khan laid great emphasis on the God ideal, not only because it is central to the Sufi path, but also because he saw that the lack of the highest ideal prevents the world from progressing. In the opening part of his lecture, he describes how different aspects of the One, such as power, mercy or favour, have been idealised.
Some have said that God is the good, all the good. If we ask them, “What is evil?” they say, “Satan.” Then there are two, and the power of evil is greater – we see evil always stronger in the world. Then God gives us the spell [i.e the time or period] of virtue, and when His power is finished, then comes the spell of evil. They have divided the absolute into two; they have made a split.
A question comes, “Is all that we see God, all the trees, and flowers, and rocks, and birds and animals? Or is God that infinite, invisible state, the invisible Being, the Artist Who creates all this?” The God that is worthy of admiration, worthy of praise and worship, is not good or bad. He is not one part. The mystics, the prophets have never come to teach the split; they have come to teach that there is one Being, the whole Being.
In early times, when there was a man so strong that he could kill ten or fifteen people in his lifetime, he was admired, he was looked up to, he became king. The others said, “You are strong. If a robber comes you will kill him. We put ourselves under your protection. We will go with you with our sticks.” The early kings were wrestlers. Even as late as the time of Muhammad, the uncle of Ali, Hamza, was a wrestler. He wrestled with the strongest wrestlers, and wherever he conquered it was in that way.
Then later they said, “You are merciful, you are kind, ” – this ideal arose. He Whom they adored said, “There is mercy in you, there is mercy in me. This shows that there is one mercy, one power.” They said, “What shall we call it?” He said, “You may call it Allah.”
But in telling the truth to others, a mistake was made, because there are always two things, the truth and the mistake. They said, “If there is a God of mercy and power and goodness and kindness and affection, then there are five Gods. I will take the God of mercy, and you can take the God of power.” He said, “There is not mercy only. Mercy is different, kindness is different, favor is different, affection is different.” They said, “Then there are ten gods. I will take the god of favor.” And one who was very cruel said, “I will take the god of war.” In this way the father had a different god, the son had a different one, the brother, the sister, the mother, each had his own god. There came innumerable gods all over the world; especially among the Mongolian races there were millions and billions of gods and goddesses.
It was a degeneration, and it was the preparation for an ideal. Both things are always going on, degeneration and evolution. When they said, “What do these gods look like?” it was their imagination that made the picture. In New York there is the figure of Liberty, a woman with outstretched arms, holding up a torch and lighting the way to liberty. Before you reach New York, you see the Statue of Liberty, and all over the United States the figure of Liberty is like this. The goddess of war has a mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out, greedy for blood, the teeth projecting. This goddess, Kali, was worshipped for a thousand years all over Bengal, because at that time they were always in the fight, in the quarrel. Those who did not want the fight said, “I want the god of comfort, Vishnu.” He is shown in the picture with his wife Lakshmi, wealth, because comfort cannot be without wealth. He is sitting on a snake with seven mouths; the hoods of the snake make a shelter over his head. There must be the destructive element that protects the comfort. In this way they were taught, “You worship, you want comfort, wealth, yes, but the god of comfort, the goddess of wealth must be sheltered by strength, by defensive power.”
The tendency to idealize exists in the whole of nature. When the tendency of idealization reaches perfection, this is the ideal of God. The animals, the dogs and cats and cows, show affection to their surroundings and to their master. The dog comes and sits at the feet of his master, and looks up into his face, and moves his tail, and does all he can to show that he likes, he loves his master. A Hindustani poet has said, “The pir is not great, the mureeds make him great.”
To be continued…