Concluding his discussion of what the soul inherits in its manifestation, Hazrat Inayat Khan points out that for those walking in the path of truth, ‘there is no heredity.’ This post is the last in the series. The previous post is here.
A child may be very like its mother in appearance, yet the quality is the father’s. For instance, if the father is very generous, and the mother is finer, the child will perhaps both be generous and finer. In this way the evolution of the world goes on by the intermingling of nations and races. Those families who keep themselves segregated in the end become weak and very stupid. For this reason the Prophet in Islam allowed all races and castes to intermarry, because the time had come for the human race to evolve in this way. When a child is different from both its mother and its father, this is partly because of its heritage from other ancestors on either side, but also because of its astral impressions. Besides every thought, speech, and action of the child builds its self from the moment of its birth upon earth. It is for this reason that there can be such a difference between father and son, while there is no difference between fleas or mosquitoes of East and West.
If we inherit the attributes of our father, our mother, our grandfather and forefathers, and acquire the attributes of the jinns and angels, how can we help what our character is? A man may say, ‘I have a quick temper because my father had a quick temper, I have a changeable disposition because that is in my family; I cannot help this, it is my character.’ This is true in part, but it is developed by belief in it. The soul acquires and casts off attributes and qualities throughout life. A coward who joins the army through hearing always of bravery, by living with soldiers may in time feel inclined to go to the war and to fight. A joyous person from being in the society of serious people may become serious, and a sad person from being with cheerful people may become cheerful. The soul acquires only those qualities in which it is interested, it will never take on those in which it is not interested. And the soul keeps only those attributes in which it is interested, it loses those in which it is not interested. However wicked a person may be, however many undesirable attributes he may have inherited, he can throw them all off by the power of will if he does not like them.
But can we change our physical body, can we change our face? We can. People become like those of whom they think much or with whom they associate. I have seen herdsmen whose faces have become very like those of the cattle and sheep with which they lived. It is our thoughts and feelings that change our appearance, and if we had control over them, we should develop the appearance that we wish to develop.
When one looks at pictures of Christ, of Zoroaster, of Moses and of other prophets, one will see that they resemble each other. These pictures are drawn from imagination; the painters have not seen their subjects. Are they then not lifelike? They are, for the mind is greater than the camera. There exist pictures of the murshids of the Sufi order, from Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti onwards, and these pictures of ten or twelve murshids and their mureeds are very much alike. If it were imagination, why should not imagination produce different pictures, as the nature of imagination is more to differentiate than to unite?
But for those who are walking in the path of truth there is no heredity. By realizing their divine origin, they free themselves from all earthly inheritance. As Christ said, ‘My Father in heaven,’ so they realize their origin from the spirit, and by their concentration and meditation they can create all the merits they wish for and clear away from their soul all influences which they do not like to possess.