Vertical and horizontal

Those who knew Murshid Hidayat will no doubt remember that he was very insistent that we learn – and learn correctly, to the centimetre, for he had once conducted orchestras and wanted the instruments to play together – the movements that accompany the prayers Saum and Salat. The movement gives physical expression of the inner thought being spoken, and that makes it complete. There is, for example, the moment in the prayer Saum, after the words, “Open our hearts toward Thy beauty, illuminate our souls with Divine light,” when we silently trace a horizontal line from left to right shoulder, and then a vertical line from the crown down to the solar plexus.

This movement, inevitably, reminds us of the Christian custom of crossing oneself, but Murshid Hidayat would explain to us, with great energy, that we are not placing the nails of the crucifix; we are silently repeating, ‘This is not my body; this is the temple of God.’

He was right – we are not making reference to the historical execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, the lesson of this gesture leads us back to crucifixion anyway.

The vertical line represents aspiration, our connection with the Divine. It does not mean that we think God is up in the stratosphere – only that we wish to rise in our thoughts and feelings. The horizontal line represents the physical plane, with all its limitations and duties and obligations.

And the further we travel on the spiritual path, the more clearly do we recognise these lines being traced in our life. As we grow more and more conscious of the soul’s aspiration, we also become more and more aware of our inescapable duties and obligation on the earth. The consequence is that we are held, unable to free ourselves from the earth, but unable to forget the call of heaven.

The story of Jesus being laid on the cross is a dramatic illustration of this, but in reality we often encounter ‘crucifixions,’ some greater than others. One example that surfaced in a recent conversation can perhaps make it clearer. A young man falls in love, and the thrill of that love opens the door to paradise for him; suddenly he knows the reality of that vertical dimension. But then one day his sweetheart says, “Now you have to come and meet my parents.” At that moment the young man finds himself held fast by the horizontal dimension. He is, for the sake of love, being crucified,

And hopefully, after the unavoidable visit, he will discover the resurrection of a new life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.