In a chapter of the series of lectures called ‘Cosmic Language,’ and in other lectures as well, Hazrat Inayat talks about the aspects of the heart, and the relationship of the heart and the mind. He says:
Thought, memory, will and reason, together with the ego as the fifth and principal factor, constitute the heart. It is these five things that may be called the heart; but […] we call the surface of it mind, and the depth of it heart.
This description of consciousness is quite different from the popular use of these terms. Generally, people speak of the heart when alluding to the waves of emotion, and of the mind for all other aspects of consciousness. For the Sufi, though, the heart is like a sacred bowl, the capacity where Divine consciousness meets individual consciousness, and just as the infinite Life finds its physical expression through our five senses, so the expression of consciousness produces these five aspects in the heart.
The terms that Hazrat Inayat uses might need some clarification. By ‘thought’, we could understand consciousness that is held in a form or shape, as for example if one were to ‘think’ of a flower. When the thought is concrete, when we are conscious of the shape, form, texture, colour and scent of the flower, it is in what we might call the mind; when we are conscious of the flower in a more abstract way, considering for example the meaning hidden in its beauty, or the significance of the flower because it was offered to us by a particular person, that deeper awareness is in what can be called the heart. Nevertheless, for the Sufi, both the surface and the depth belong to the heart, the sacred ‘akasha’ [capacity] of consciousness.
Obviously, thought greatly depends upon memory; if we attempt to think of something we have never known before, we will naturally construct it from what we have known, drawing upon the vast collection of memories of all our experiences. Hazrat Inayat gives as an example, if one were asked to imagine a new creature, we might assemble the wings of a bird attached to the body of a lion, with the head of a human being, and so on. And it is this process of assembly that is referred to by the word, ‘reason.’ Reason is the co-ordination of thought according to some framework. Reason may, at times be ‘logical,’ which is to say, based on mathematical rules, but it is more often based on personal rules of which we are largely unconscious; for example, “I will take this pastry because I deserve it.”
It is worth mentioning in passing that there is a modern interest in something called ‘artificial intelligence,’ a term that a Sufi might find not so intelligent. ‘Artificial’ here must mean, created by human effort, as distinct from the individual intelligence gifted to us by Creation, but just like our everyday flow of thought, such intelligence would have to be assembled from what we ‘know,’ and therefor could not be seen as something new. If science cannot accept the creation or destruction of matter (though allowing its conversion to energy), how can it imagine the creation of consciousness, which is in any case omnipresent and all-pervading?
The two remaining aspects of the heart, probably the most surprising to the modern-day seeker, are will and ego. We will look at these in another post.