Some thoughts recently posted about the horizontal and the vertical stimulated an interesting comment (following the Spanish version of the post) pointing to a connection with the practice of the external zikar, which is usually done in the form of a cross. Hazrat Inayat Khan found the symbol of the cross very meaningful, and not specifically in the Christian framework. The following text is from vol. XIII, The Gathas. See also vol. IX, The Unity of Religious Ideals, and vol. The Smiling Forehead for more.
The symbol of the cross has many significations. It is said in the Bible, first was the word and then came light and then the world was created. And as the light is expressed in the form of the cross, so every form shows in it the original sign. Every artist knows the value of the vertical line and the horizontal line, which form the skeleton of every form. This is proved by the teaching of the Quran, where it is said that God created the world from His own light. The cross is the figure that fits to every form everywhere.
Morally, the cross signifies pain or torture. That means that in every activity of life, which may be pictured as a perpendicular line, there comes obstruction, which the horizontal line represents. This shows the picture of life, and that, as it is said, man proposes and God disposes. Somebody asked the great Master Ali what made him believe in God, Who is beyond human comprehension. Ali said, ‘I believe in God, therefore I see that when I alone wish, things are not accomplished.’ According to the metaphysical point of view this shows the picture of limitation in life.
The symbol of the cross in its connection with the life of Christ not only relates to the crucifixion of the Master but signifies the crucifixion that one has to meet with by possessing the truth. The idea of the Hindu philosophy is that life in the world is an illusion and therefore every experience in this life and knowledge in this life are also illusions. The Sanskrit word for this illusion is Maya, it is also called Mithya, from which the word myth comes. When the soul begins to see the truth it is, so to say, born again, and to this soul all that appears as true to an average person is false, and what seems truth to this soul is nothing to the average person. All that seems to an average person important and precious in life has no value or importance for this soul, and what seems to this soul important and valuable has no importance nor value for an average person. Therefore such a one naturally hides himself in a crowd which lives in a world quite different from that in which he lives. Imagine living in a world where nobody uses your language! Yet he can live in the world, for he knows the language. And yet to him life in the world is as unprofitable as to a grown-up person the world of children playing with their toys. A human being who has realized the truth is subject to all the pains and tortures in the same way as all other persons, except that he is capable of bearing them better than the others. But at the same time when, while in the crowd, everyone hits the other and also receives blows, the knower of truth has to stand alone and receive them only. This is in itself a great torture. The life in the world is difficult for every person, rich or poor, strong or weak, but for the knower of truth it is still more difficult than for others, and that in itself is a cross. Therefore, for the spiritual Messenger the cross is a natural emblem, to explain his moral condition.
But there is a still higher significance of the cross, which is understood by the mystic. This significance is what is called self-denial, and, in order to teach this moral, gentleness, humility, and modesty are taught as a first lesson. Self-denial is an effect, of which self-effacement is the cause. This is self-denial, that a man says: ‘I am not, Thou art;’ or that an artist looking at his picture, says, ‘It is Thy work, not mine;’ or that a musician, hearing his composition, says, ‘It is Thy creation, I do not exist.’ That soul then is, in a way, crucified, and through that crucifixion resurrection comes. There is not the slightest doubt that when man has had enough pain in his life he rises to this great consciousness. But it is not necessary that only pain should be the means. It is the readiness on the part of man to efface his part of consciousness and to efface his own personality that lifts the veil which hides the spirit of God from the view of man.