A question came, once, from someone who was engaged in learning the prayer Saum. That is not surprising; to learn the prayers is more than committing to memory a string of words in a specified order. It also means accommodating one’s mind to thoughts and feelings that are perhaps shaped differently from what we are used to. In this case, a difference that came to light had to do with the phrase, “Lord God of the East and of the West, of the worlds above and below, and of the seen and unseen beings.” What does that mean? the person asked, with some suspicion. Who are these ‘unseen beings.’?
It would not help to reply, “Who knows? We can’t see them, they are invisible, unseen!” The prayer Saum is, at this point, emphasising the unlimited extent of the dominion of God, and by following that emphasis our own consciousness is stretched; we are drawn as wide as the horizon that stretches from East to West, we are lifted to the heavens and brought down to the earth, and as the phrase concludes, we are moved from the dense, that which can be seen, to the subtle, that which cannot be seen.
And when we allow the prayer to draw us into the subtle realms of the unseen, what do we encounter? Hazrat Inayat Khan devotes an entire chapter of volume II of the Message series to the idea that thoughts are not transient abstractions, but living beings, born with a purpose, given life by the mind that forms them, and living on until that life and purpose are complete. We seldom concern ourselves with this, and the consequence is that our ‘mind-world’ is often frustrating and uncomfortable.
And if thoughts are beings, how much more living are feelings, that come from the depth of our consciousness? Thoughts have a shape, a sensory form that the mind can grasp, but feelings are insubstantial; and yet it is feeling that gives meaning to our life. A life without feeling is a life spent in one’s own grave. And when feeling awakens to the beauty of the Divine Presence, one enters into the realm of the angels.
Various spiritual traditions describe realms of different qualities: places of torture, and celestial realms. These are not locations to which one is assigned after leaving this world, but experiences in our present life; heaven and hell both are within us, now, and we each and all are offered the possibility of emptying the pits of the damned, and rising up to live with the angels. That could be understood as one description of ‘the message of spiritual liberty.’