At the beginning of this lecture on Man and God, Hazrat Inayat Khan first gives a clear summary of the limited condition of the human being.
Rumi says in his great book, the Masnavi that the reason why a child cries the first moment after it is born on earth is because it realizes its exile from the higher spheres. It is unhappy because it finds itself in a different sphere, a different world. The soul seems captive in this mortal body.
There is a beautiful story in the Quran which explains symbolically the idea of the captivity of the soul. It says that God made a statue of man, of the first man, and asked the soul to enter into this body. And the soul refused saying, ‘Lord, I do not want to be imprisoned in this physical body’. Then God told the angels to sing and dance, and on hearing their song and with the rhythm of the dance the soul went into ecstasy, and in that condition it entered the body.
Rumi says that the reason why every soul is yearning to attain something is that it is in exile, a captive in this physical body which for a while it considered to be itself, with which it identified itself, but which in reality is not itself. It is only a garb, but because it has identified itself with this garb it is unhappy; it has lost that freedom which belonged to it, which was its own.
The vision of man is small, narrow, because of his limitation in this physical body. In other words, the eyes cannot see farther than the mind can, and the mind cannot see farther than the soul can. Because the soul is dependent upon the mind the vision becomes limited, and as the mind is accustomed to experience through the body, the vision of the mind is limited. It is the vision of the perfect One which, by means of the captivity, has made the individual; thus individual means the limited experience of the soul. Whether man knows it or not, whether he believes it or not, there always comes a time when he finds that nothing pleases him. Sometimes he thinks that he is unhappy because he has no money or no comforts; he imagines that if he had a comfortable home with pleasant, congenial surroundings everything would be all right; but when he has obtained all this he is dissatisfied just the same. It is because of man’s innermost being that he is only satisfied for a short time by outside factors. His lack of freedom causes a continual craving; the soul which is captive in mind and body and which cannot express itself fully cannot experience life as it would wish, because by identifying itself with its garbs it has accustomed itself to be ignorant of itself. Therefore spiritual attainment is a matter of finding the secret by uncovering the soul beneath these garbs.
No one can say how God looks upon the world, how God sees life. Yet there are souls who attain to the divine vision, in other words their outlook becomes God’s outlook. In Sufi terms this is called Akhlaq-i Allah, which means the manner of God. When man has reached the stage of spiritual attainment where he has developed the outlook of God his manner becomes the manner of God. The greater man’s evolution the wider his outlook on life; the wider his outlook the higher he stands. But at the same time, as life is today and in so far as we are able to see our fellow men, it seems that people care little to distinguish themselves in this way.
In the modern world the pitch*, it appears, has become smaller and smaller, the pitch of human understanding. Why is this so? Because of the lack of individual progress. As man is busy with mass-production the general tendency is to keep everybody on the same level of understanding. People all read the same newspapers as if they were afraid of ideas being unalike. So they remain all at the same pitch; and if any man has a tendency to go forward he is considered a dreamer, an eccentric, strange. There is no encouragement for individual development, and therefore society keeps the progress of the whole within certain limits and does not allow it to develop further.
*As a musician, it is likely that Hazrat Inayat Khan is referring to the range of pitch, the distance between the lowest and highest note. However, it is also true that in British usage ‘pitch’ means an area of ground marked out for the playing of a game. In either case, it is clear that he is referring to an continuous diminishment of human understanding.
To be continued…