In the recently posted text about the need of the world today, Hazrat Inayat Khan tells us that to rise from a religion, one that is distinct from other religions, to the universal wisdom of the religion, the source of all guidance, we must rise above the distinctions and differences that divide humanity. Speaking in a general way, this is tremendously inspiring; perhaps for a moment, we might enjoy a small day-dream of a huge circle of people standing together, holding hands or with arms around each others’ shoulders, smiling, relaxed and happy. ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’ we ask ourselves. The sun is shining, children are laughing, and from somewhere, music is playing. It is a beautiful picture, and not at all to be ridiculed, but if we examine it more closely, we might notice that all the people in our imagined group-embrace have a strong resemblance to ourselves, at least on an emotional level. And the same taste in music, too…
If one takes to heart Hazrat Inayat’s suggestion ‘to rise above the distinctions and differences’ and tries to live it every day, one soon discovers that it is very hard work. It is not so difficult to rise above the differences when it is a question of people like ourselves, with similar hopes or feelings, people with whom we feel some sympathy. But life is a relentless teacher, and inevitably we will be confronted by people whose differences challenge us severely. Indeed, most of us already have a catalog of ‘difficult’ people who are just too ‘different’; we find it easier to avoid them than to look for a way to harmonise with them.
To make a reality of this ideal there are two ways of proceeding. One, which we could think of as the ‘horizontal’ approach, is to confront each difference, each distinction as it comes, and wrestle with ourselves to find some point of correspondence, of convergence or unity with the other point of view. For the seeker on the path this is very good discipline, for it demands that we watch ourselves carefully, and that we take action whenever we find ourselves feeling superior to another. Persistence and patience is essential. By this work is our character developed. It is like hammering iron on the anvil, but like the iron, if we keep warmth within us—meaning our love of the ideal, of beauty—we respond more readily.
The second way of proceeding, which may grow out of the first, can be thought of as the ‘vertical’ approach, and that is to realise that the distinctions and differences are not in the other person, but in our own consciousness; it is we ourselves who make the separation, and therefore to rise above the differences means quite literally to rise above oneself. When this understanding begins to dawn, it offers an infinitely expanding horizon as we leave the little walls of ‘me’ and ‘my house’ and ‘my garden’ far below. “What am I not?” said the dervish*. Then, too, we begin to hear the ‘voice which constantly cometh from within,’ whispering, singing, roaring not just from within our hearts but in our hearing and sight and everywhere, since boundaries have been abandoned.
And this, by the way, is the answer to the question recently posted about intuition. ‘Intuition’ means the coming into consciousness of a thought for which there is no obvious explanation. The more we rise above ourselves, the more does the Divine mind speak to us, and through us. And so, as we rise in our liberation from the little self, the Voice is able to communicate at deeper and deeper levels, giving rise to inspiration and even, when no trace of the ‘I’ remains, to revelation.
*Hazrat Inayat Khan told the story of the dervish who was arrested late one night by a policeman. When the policeman, in his simple way, asked the dervish, “Are you a thief?” the dervish answered, “Yes.” Pleased to have caught a thief so easily, the policeman marched the dervish off to jail. In the morning, the policeman’s superior officer, recognising something of the spiritual quality of the prisoner, apologised to the dervish, and asked him why he had told the policeman he was a thief? The dervish replied, “What am I not?”