Onknowledge of the soul, and how knowledge of the
soul is the key to the knowledge ofGod.
O seeker after the divine mysteries! know thou that the door to the knowledge of God will be opened to a man first of all, when he knows his own soul, and understands the truth about his own spirit, according as it has been revealed, “he who knows himself knows his Lord also.” And God proclaims in his holy book: “We will display our miracles in the different countries of the world, till it shall be demonstrated to them that the Koran is the truth,” that is, let us show men in the visible world, and in their own souls, the wonderfulness of our works and the perfection of our power, that they may learn to know that the Lord God is Almighty and true, and that everything else besides is vanity.
O seeker of the mysteries! since there is nothing nearer to thee than thyself, and that still with thy soul alone, thou canst not discriminate anything, and art impotent to find out and know thyself, in what way canst thou become acquainted with anything else, and with that which is even separate from thyself? And how should'st thou be able to comprehend God, who in his nature cannot be comprehended, and of whose absolute essence it is not possible to give thee any explanation. If thou should'st say, “I perfectly know myself,” we reply, that we have no doubt that what you are acquainted with is your own hand and foot, with your eye and mouth, and animals even have this kind of knowledge. You know also that if you are hungry, your stomach craves food, and that if you are cold, you desire clothing; but other animals also understand these things.
However, that knowledge of the soul which leads to the knowledge of God, is not of this kind. The knowledge which you need to possess is, to know what you are; how you are created; whence you are; for what you are here; whither you are going; in what your happiness consists, and what you must do to secure it; in what your misery consists, and what you must do to avoid it. And further, your internal qualities are distributed into animal, ferocious, demoniacal and angelic qualities. You need to know, therefore, what qualities predominate in your character, and in the predominance of which your true happiness consists. If your qualities are chiefly animal, the essence of which is to eat and drink, you will day and night seek after these things. If your qualities are of the ferocious kind, the essence of which is to tear and rend, to injure and destroy, you will act accordingly. If you are endowed chiefly with the qualities of devils, which consist in evil machinations, deceit and delusion, then you should know and be aware of it, that you may turn towards the path of perfection. And if you possess angelic qualities, whose nature it is to worship God in sincerity and continually to await the vision of His beauty, then like them you should unceasingly, resting neither day or night, be zealous and strive that you may become worthy of the vision of the Lord. For know, O student of the mysteries! that man was created to stand at the door of service in frailty and weakness, and wait for the opening of the door of spiritual union, and for the vision of beauty, as God declares in his holy word: “I have not created the genii and men except that they should worship me.”
These qualities, whether animal, or ferocious or demoniacal have been bestowed upon man, that by their means the body might be adapted to be a vehicle for the spirit, and that the spirit, by means of the body which is its vehicle, while herein this temporary home of earth, might seek after the knowledge and love of God, as the huntsman would seek to make the phœnix and the griffin his prey. Then, when it leaves this strange land for the region of spiritual friendship, it shall be worthy to partake of the mystery contained in the invitation, “enter in peace, O believers!” and which is in the homage, “Peace is the word they shall hear from the merciful Lord.” People in general suppose that this refers to Paradise. Woe to him who has no portion in this knowledge! There is great danger in his path. The way of faith is veiled from his eyes.
If you wish, O seeker of the way! to know your own soul, know that the blessed and glorious God created you of two things: the one is a visible body, and the other is a something internal, that is called spirit and heart, which can only be perceived by the mind. But when we speak of heart, we do not mean the piece of flesh which is in the left side of the breast of a man, for that is found in a dead body and in animals: it may be seen with the eyes, and belongs to the visible world. That heart, which is emphatically called spirit, does not belong to this world, and although it has come to this world, it has only come to leave it. It is the sovereign of the body, which is its vehicle, and all the external and internal organs of the body are its subjects. Its especial attribute is to know God and to enjoy the vision of the beauty of the Lord God. The invitation to salvation is addressed to the spirit. The commandment is also addressed to it, for it is capable of happiness or misery. The knowledge of what it is in reality, is the key to the knowledge of God. Beloved, strive to obtain this knowledge, for there is no more precious jewel. In its origin it comes from God, and again returns to him. It has come hither but for a time for intercourse and action.
Be sure, O seeker after knowledge! that it is impossible to obtain a knowledge of the heart, until you know its essence and its true nature, its faculties, and its relations with its faculties,—nor until you know its attributes, and how through them the knowledge of God is obtained, and what happiness is, and how happiness is to be secured. Know then, that the existence of the spirit is evident and is not involved in doubt. Still, it is not body, which is found in corpses and in animals generally. If a person with his eyes wide open should look upon the world and upon his own body, and then shut his eyes, everything would be veiled from his view, so that he could not see even his own body. But the existence of his spirit would not be at the same time shut out from his view. Again, at death, the body turns to earth, but the spirit undergoes no corruption. Still it is not permitted to us to know what the spirit is in its real nature and in its essence, as God says in his Holy Word : “They will ask you about the spirit. Answer, the spirit is a creation by decree of the Lord.” The spirit belongs to the world of decrees.
All existence is of two kinds, one is of the world of decrees, and the other is of the world of creation. “To him belongs creation and decree.” The matters which belong to the world of decrees are those which have not superficies, quantity, or form: to the world of creation belong those which do have both quantity and form. The creation spoken of in the verse is in the sense of foreordination and not of actual formation. Hence those who say that the spirit is created, and is also from all eternity are in error, for nothing is eternal except the being and attributes of God.
Those also, who say that the spirit is but an accident, are in error, for the spirit exists by itself in the body, and an accident is that which subsists with something else. And those who say that the spirit is matter are in error, for matter is that which can be divided, and spirit is not susceptible of division. There is spirit, beloved, which is called animal spirit, which is susceptible of division. It is found in animals. But that spirit, which has the property of knowing God, and which is called the heart, is not found in beasts, nor is it matter or an accident. The heart, on the contrary, has been created with angelic qualities. It is a substance of which it is difficult to apprehend the essence. The law does not permit it to be explained, but there is no occasion for the student being acquainted with it at the outset of his journey. That which is necessary to the student is pious ardor and zeal, and this must be called into exercise in perfection. It is God who graciously teaches the student what spirit is, as we find in the Holy Book: “We will direct in our way, all those who shall strive to propagate our worship.” And if a man does not strive earnestly for the faith, there is no use of explaining to him the essence of spirit. It is, however, lawful to explain to him the instruments by which it operates.
Know, O seeker after the divine mysteries! that the body is the kingdom of the heart, and that in the body there are many forces in contrariety with the heart, as God speaks in his Holy Word: “And what shall teach thee the forces of thy Lord ?” The heart was destined to acquire a knowledge of God, in which its happiness consists. But we cannot grow in the knowledge of God, unless we understand the works of God.
The works of God are apprehended by the senses, which are five, hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch. For such an arrangement of the senses, there was also need of a body. The body itself is composed of four diverse elements, water, earth, air and fire. Being, therefore, liable to decay, it is in continual danger of perishing from the external and internal enemies that perpetually assail it. Its external enemies, are such as wild beasts, drowning and conflagrations; its internal enemies, such as hunger and thirst. For the purpose of resisting these, it was in want of various internal and external forces, such as the hand and foot, sight and hearing, food and drink. And in this connection, for eating and drinking, it is in want of internal and external instruments like the hand, the mouth, the stomach, the powers of appetite and digestion. In addition to these instruments, there was need of means to guide in their occasional use, that is, for the internal senses. These are five, the faculties of perception, reflection, memory, recollection and imagination. Their home is in the brain, and each has a specific function, as is well known to the learned. If to any one of all these faculties and instruments an injury occurs, the actions of man are defective. Now all these are the agents of the heart and subject to its rule. If, for example, the heart gives permission to the ear, hearing results; if it gives permission to the eye, there follows sight; if it gives permission to the foot, there is movement. All the other members are obedient in the same manner to the commands of the heart. The divine plan in all this arrangement is, that while the members preserve the body for a few days from harm, the heart, in its vehicle the body, should pursue its business of cultivating the seeds of happiness for eternity and prepare for its journey to its native country. So long as the various forces of the body are obedient to the dictates of the heart, in like manner as the angels obey in the presence of God, no contrariety of action can arise among them.
Know, O student of wisdom! that the body, which is the kingdom of the heart, resembles a great city. The hand, the foot, the mouth and the other members resemble the people of the various trades. Desire is a standard bearer; anger is a superintendent of the city, the heart is its sovereign, and reason is the vizier. The sovereign needs the service of all the inhabitants. But desire, the standard bearer, is a liar, vain and ambitious. He is always ready to do the contrary of what reason, the vizier, commands. He strives to appropriate to himself whatever he sees in the city, which is the body. Anger, the superintendent, is rebellious and corrupt, quick and passionate. He is always ready to be enraged, to spill blood, and to blast one's reputation. If the sovereign, the heart, should invariably consult with reason, his vizier, and, when desire was transgressing, should give to wrath to have power over him (yet, without giving him full liberty, should make him angry in subjection to reason, the vizier, so that passing all bounds he should not stretch out his hand upon the kingdom), there would then be an equilibrium in the condition of the kingdom, and all the members would perform the functions for which they were created, their service would be accepted at the mercy seat, and they would obtain eternal felicity….
If you desire, inquirer for the way, with thankfulness for these mercies, to obtain eternal happiness in the future mansions, the heart must enthrone itself like a sovereign in its capital, the body, must stand at the door of service and direct its prayers to the gate of eternal truth, seeking for the beauty of the divinity. It must take reason for its vizier, desire for its standard bearer, anger to be the superintendent of the city, and taking the senses of reason as its spies, it must make each one of them responsible in its sphere. The perceptive faculties which are foremost in the brain, it must make to be chiefs of the spies, that they may convey to the spies notices of what occurs in the world. The faculty of memory, which is next in order in the brain, it must use as a receptacle in which it may treasure up whatever is noticed by the spies, and, as occasion requires, may inform reason, the vizier. The vizier, in accordance with the information received, will administer the kingdom. When he sees any one of the soldiers revolting and following his own passions, he will represent it to the sovereign, that he may be controlled and conquered. He must not, however, be destroyed, for each one of us has received, from his original country, a definite commission, and in that case this service must remain unfulfilled. But, alas! if the heart should swerve from its sovereignty, and not make use of reason as its vizier, and should be reduced by the standard bearer, desire, and the superintendent, anger, all the forces would then follow in the train of desire and anger, the kingdom would fall into disorder, and everlasting ruin would be the result….
If you inquire, O student! how it is known that the heart of man has been created in accordance with the qualities of angels, seeing that the most of the qualities and attributes of angels are foreign to it, I reply, you know that there is not, in truth, any creature on the face of the earth more noble than man, and that it belongs to the dignity and perfection of every creature, to work out perseveringly that service for which it was created. The ass, for instance, was created to bear burdens. If he carries his load well, without stumbling or falling, or if he does not throw off his load, his qualities are in perfection, and his service is accepted. The horse was designed also for war and military expeditions, and has strength to carry burdens. If he performs his duty well, in time of war, in running, fleeing and going to meet the enemy, his service is accepted, and he will be treated with attention in his accoutrements, grooming and feeding. But if he performs his service imperfectly, a pack saddle will be put on his back, as on the ass, from day to day he will be employed as a beast of burden, and he will be carelessly and deficiently provided with food, and poorly taken care of.
Besides, beloved! if man had been created only to eat and drink, it would follow that animals are of greater worth and excellence than man; for they can eat and drink more than man can, and they have useful services devolved upon them of drawing burdens, tilling the ground, and giving meat, butter and milk for food. If also man had been created to fight, kill and domineer, it would follow that beasts of prey are nobler than he, for they are mightier in their ferocity and their power of subjugating other animals. There are, moreover, many animals of manifest utility, as the dog to watch and hunt, and the skins of some of them for clothing. It follows, therefore, that man was not created for these things, but rather to serve God and to grow in the knowledge of him.
It is plain that mind, discernment and reason were bestowed upon man, that when he looks upon the world and sees in every object illustrations of various forms of perfection, and much to excite his wonder, he might turn his attention from the work of the artist, to the artist himself; from the thing formed to him that formed it; that he might comprehend his own excessive frailty and weakness, and the perfection of the wisdom and power, yea, of all the attributes of the eternal Creator, and that, without ceasing, he might humbly supplicate acceptance in his frailty and weakness on the one hand, and on the other might seek to draw near to the King of kings, and finally obtain rest in the home of the faithful, where the angels are in the presence of God. If men refuse to recognize their own dignity, if they neglect their duty and prefer the qualities of devils and beasts of prey, they will also possess, in the future world, the qualities of beasts of prey, and will be judged with the devils. Our refuge is in God!
Know, thou seeker of divine mysteries! that there is no end to the wonderful operations of the heart. For, to pursue the same subject, the dignity of the heart is of two kinds; one kind is by means of knowledge, and the other through the exertion of divine power. Its dignity by means of knowledge is also of two kinds. The first is external knowledge, which every one understands: the second kind is veiled and cannot be understood by all, and is extremely precious. That which we have designated as external, refers to that faculty of the heart by which the sciences of geometry, medicine, astronomy, numbers, the science of law and all the arts are understood; and although the heart is a thing which cannot be divided, still the knowledge of all the world exists in it. All the world indeed, in comparison with it, is as a grain compared with the sun, or as a drop in the ocean. In a second, by the power of thought, the soul passes from the abyss to the highest heaven, and from the east to the west. Though on the earth, it knows the latitude of the stars and their distances. It knows the course, the size and the peculiarities of the sun. It knows the nature and cause of the clouds and the rain, the lightning and the thunder. It ensnares the fish from the depths of the sea, and the bird from the end of heaven. By knowledge it subdues the elephant, the camel and the tiger. All these kinds of knowledge, it acquires with its internal and external senses.
The most wonderful thing of all is, that there is a window in the heart from whence it surveys the world. This is called the invisible world, the world of intelligence, or the spiritual world. People in general look only at the visible world, which is called also the present world, the sensible world and the material world; their knowledge of it also is trivial and limited. And there is also a window in the heart from whence it surveys the intelligible world. There are two arguments to prove that there are such windows in the heart. One of the arguments is derived from dreams. When an individual goes to sleep, these windows remain open and the individual is able to perceive events which will befall him from the invisible world or from the hidden table of decrees, and the result corresponds exactly with the vision. Or he sees a similitude, and those who are skilled in the science of interpretation of dreams understand the meaning. But the explanation of this science of interpretation would be too long for this treatise. The heart resembles a pure mirror, you must know, in this particular, that when a man falls asleep, when his senses are closed, and when the heart, free and pure from blameable affections, is confronted with the preserved tablet, then the tablet reflects upon the heart the real states and hidden forms inscribed upon it. In that state the heart sees most wonderful forms and combinations. But when the heart is not free from impurity, or when, on waking, it busies itself with things of sense, the side towards the tablet will be obscured, and it can view nothing. For, although in sleep the senses are blunted, the imaginative faculty is not, but preserves the forms reflected upon the mirror of the heart. But as the perception does not take place by means of the external senses, but only in the imagination, the heart does not see them with absolute clearness, but sees only a phantom. But in death, as the senses are completely separated and the veil of the body is removed, the heart can contemplate the invisible world and its hidden mysteries, without a veil, just as lightning or the celestial rays impress the external eye.
The second proof of the existence of these windows in the heart, is that no individual is destitute of these spiritual susceptibilities and of the faculty of thought and reflection. For instance every individual knows by inspiration, things which he has neither seen nor heard, though he knows not from whence or by what means he understands them. Still, notwithstanding the heart belongs to the invisible world, so long as it is absorbed in the contemplation of the sensible world, it is shut out and restrained from contemplating the invisible and spiritual world.
Think not, thou seeker after the divine mysteries! that the window of the heart is never opened except in sleep and after death. On the contrary, if a person calls into exercise, in perfection, holy zeal and austerities, and purifies his heart from the defilement of blameable affections, and then sits down in a retired spot, abandons the use of his external senses, and occupies himself with calling out “O God ! O God!” his heart will come into harmony with the invisible world, he will no longer receive notions from the material world, and nothing will be present in his heart but the exalted God. In this revelation of the invisible world, the windows of the heart are opened, and what others may have seen in a dream, he in this state sees in reality. The spirits of angels and prophets are manifested to him and he holds intercourse with them. The hidden things of earth and heaven are uncovered to him, and to whomsoever these things are revealed, mighty wonders are shown, that are beyond description. As the prophet of God says: “I turned towards the earth, and I saw the east and the west.” And God says in his word: “And thus we caused Abraham to see the kingdom of heaven and earth,” which is an example of this kind of revelation. Probably the knowledge of all the prophets was obtained in this way, for it was not obtained by learning….
When the heart is free from worldly lusts, from the animosities of society and from the distraction occasioned by the senses, the vision of God is possible. And this course is adopted by the Mystics. It is also the path followed by the prophets. But it is permitted also to acquire the practice of it by learning, and this is the way adopted by the theologians. This is also an exalted way, though in comparison with the former, its results are insignificant and contracted. Many distinguished men have attained these revelations by experience and the demonstration of reasoning. Still let every one who fails of obtaining this knowledge either by means of purity of desire or of demonstration of reasoning, take care and not deny its existence to those who are possessed of it, so that they may not be repelled from the low degree they have attained, and their conduct become a snare to them in the way of truth. These things which we have mentioned constitute the wonders of the heart and show its grandeur.
Think not that these discoveries of truth are limited to the prophets alone. On the contrary every man in his essential nature is endowed with attributes rendering him capable of participating in the same discoveries. What God says, “Am I not your Lord?” refers to this quality. And the holy saying of the prophet of God: “Every man is born with the nature of Islamism; but his ancestors practised Judaism, Nazarenism or Magianism,” is an indication of the same thing.
The heart of man while in the spiritual world knew its maker and creator; it had mingled with angels and knew for what service it was created; and in the assembly where they said, “Yes,” it was intoxicated as with wine at the interrogation, “Am I not your Lord?” As at that moment, it was seen with the eye of certainty, no person had any doubt on the subject, as God says in his holy word: “If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth, they will answer thee, the wise and holy God.” All the prophets were apparently of the same nature as other men without any difference, as we find in God's holy word: “Say, I am a man like you: it was revealed to me.” Afterwards the heart descended from the world of divine union to this house of separation, from that assembly of love to this station of sorrow, and from the spiritual to the material, and entering within the curtain of the senses, it became occupied with the care of the body and was overcome by the animal affections and material pleasures. The heart of man, veiled with the garments of heedlessness, forgot the assembly with which it had been familiar, and imagining that this miserable place was to be its mansion of rest, it chose to establish itself here in this world of perdition, as if this was its home. Still the veil of heedlessness disappeared from the eyes of those to whom the grace and guidance of the Eternal and unchangeable gave aid and support, and the discovery of the invisible world was not concealed from the view of some of those who came into this material world, but was anew revealed to them, after a measure of exertion of spiritual ardor.
To whomsoever this revelation has been vouchsafed, if it directs him to reform the world, to invite the nations to turn to God, and to a peculiar way of life, that person is called a prophet, and his way of life is called a law; and that influence which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a miracle. If he has not been appointed to invite the nations, but worships in accordance with the law of another, he is called a saint, and that which proceeds from him, which transcends what is ordinary, is called a manifestation of grace. The miracle performed by a saint is accounted a miracle of that prophet whose law he follows. He who has received, by whatever meaus, a revelation of the invisible world, is capable of being ordained to the office of a prophet. And if he is not appointed by God, the reason will be either, that at the time the existing law had been newly revealed, and that there was no occasion for a prophet, or else that there may be a peculiarity in prophets which is not found in the saints. It follows that it is our duty not to deny either the saintship or the miracles of the saints, but to acknowledge them as real.
You should be aware, however, that this alchemy of happiness, that is, the knowledge of God, which is the occasion of the revelation of truth, cannot be acquired without spiritual self-denial and effort. Unless a man has reached perfection and the rank of Superior, nothing will be revealed to him, except in cases of special divine grace and merciful providence, and this occurs very rarely. Nor, except by divine condescension, is revelation obtained even by all who by effort reach the rank of Superior. And whosoever would attain holiness can only reach it by the path of difficulty.
You have now learned, student of the divine mysteries, the dignity of the heart through knowledge, and what kind of knowledge it possesses. Now listen and learn its dignity through divine power and on account of the greatness of which it is capable, that you may see how precious you are in yourself, and yet how vile and contemptible you make yourself by your own choice. Know then, that the heart is endowed with properties like those of angels and such as are not found in animals; and just as the material world is subjected by divine permission to the angels, and when God wills it, the angels send forth the winds, cause rain to fall, bring forth the embryo in animals, shape their forms, cause seeds to sprout in the earth and plants to grow, many legions of angels being appointed to this service, so also the heart of man being created with angelic properties must have influence and power over the material world. In man's own body, which is peculiarly his own world, its control and influence are very evident. The hand, for example, does not in writing move of itself, but depends for motion on volition proceeding from the heart. And in eating, it is the heart which by an exertion of its will, causes moisture to rise in the mouth from under the tongue, to mix with the food that it may be swallowed and digested. These facts clearly substantiate the dominion and control of the heart, and the subordination of the body.
Know also, that if the heart should not be tarnished with the rust of rebellion, and if the animal and ferocious qualities should not be dominant, that it would be capable, on account of the presence in it of angelic properties, of manifesting this same influence over other bodies. If it should look upon a lion or tiger with severity, they would become weak and submissive. If it should look with kindness upon one who is sick, his infirmity might be changed to health. If it should look upon the vigorous with majesty, they might become infirm. The realty of the existence of these influences is known both by reason and experience. Sorcery with the eyes, is of this kind of power. If for example, a man of a malicious disposition look upon some little thing with envy, and if while he is looking, the destruction of the object should come into his mind, an influence upon it may be observed immediately, and directly or after a while that object will be destroyed: the prophet of God has said: “the eye brings man to the grave and the camel to the seething pot.”
In whomsoever these influences are shown to have power, if he occasions misery in the exercise of this power, he is designated a sorcerer. Although as has been seen, the power of performing signs, miracles and sorceries belongs to the heart when its faculties are in perfect operation, yet there are important destinations between these powers. And whoever is of a narrow mind will not be able to appreciate that signs and miracles are influences proceeding from the heart of man, unless he should learn it by external teaching.
The heart has dominion and control through three channels. One is through visions, by which revelations are made to all men. But the kind of mysteries generally revealed to people in visions, are revealed to prophets and saints in the outward world. The second kind is through the dominion which the heart exercises over its own body, a quality, which is possessed by all men in general, though prophets and saints for the good of the community, possess the same power over other bodies than their own. The third source of dominiou of the heart is through knowledge. The mass of men obtain it by instruction and learning, but it is bestowed by God upon prophets and saints directly, without the mediums of learning and instruction. It is possible also for persons of pure minds to acquire a knowledge of some arts and sciences without instruction, and it is also possible that some persons should have all things opened up to them by the will of God. This kind of knowledge is called “infused and illuminated,” as God says in his word : “we have illuminated him with our knowledge.” These three specialities are all of them found in certain measure in some men, in others two of them are found, and in others, only one is found: but whenever the three are found in the same person, he belongs to the rank of prophets or of the greatest of the saints. In our Lord the prophet Mohammed Mustafa, these three specialities existed in perfection. The Lord in bestowing these three properties upon certain individuals, designates them to exhort the nations and to be prophets of the people. To every man there is given a certain portion of each one of these peculiarities, to serve as a pattern.
Man cannot comprehend states of being which transcend his own nature. Hence none but the great God himself can comprehend God, as we have shown in our Commentary upon the “Names of God.” So also the prophets cannot be comprehended by any but the prophets themselves. No person, in short, can understand any individual who belongs to a scale of rank above him. It is possible that there is a peculiarity in prophets, of which no pattern or model is found in other persons, and therefore, we are incapable of understanding them. If we knew not what a vision is, and an individual should say to us, that a man, at a moment when he can neither move, see or hear, can perceive events which are to occur at a future period, and yet might not be able to perceive the same while walking, listening or looking, we should not in any wise be able to persuade ourselves of the truth of it, as God says in his Holy word: “They treat as a lie that which they cannot comprehend with their knowledge.” And you, do you not see that he who comes blind into the world, does not understand the pleasure which is derived from seeing? Let us not regard, therefore, as impossible all those states ascribed to the prophets which we cannot understand: for they are the accepted and praiseworthy servants of God.
From all which has been said, seeker after the divine mysteries, thou hast learned something of the dignity of the nature of man, and that the way of the mystics is holy and honorable. But I have heard that the mystics say that external knowledge is a veil upon the way to God, and a hindrance in the journey to the truth. Take care and do not deny that they are correct in what they say. For, external knowledge is derived from the sensuous world, and all objects of sense are a hindrance to him who is occupied with spiritual truth; for whoever is attending to sensual objects, indicates that his mind is preoccupied with external properties. And it is impossible that he who would walk in the way of truth, should be for a moment unemployed in meditation, upon obtaining spiritual union and the vision of beauty.
Know, student of the divine mysteries, that the heart is like a reservoir into which five streams flow: these streams at one time run clear, and at another, turbid, and hence the bottom of the reservoir contains much mud. If a person wish to cleanse the reservoir and to get rid of the mud in the bottom, he must first dam up the course of the running streams, and then stir up and put in motion the mud, and until the muddy water has been carried off by the pure water that gushes up at the bottom of the reservoir, he will not allow any other water to run in. Now the external senses resemble those running streams, from which various kinds of knowledge, notions and prejudices proceed to the heart, of which some are pure and purifying, and some are corrupt and corrupting, and until these have been dammed up, the windows of the heart cannot be uncovered so that the illuminating knowledge from God can be revealed to it.
If a person possessing great knowledge of the outward world, should use his knowledge as a means of progress in the way of truth, instead of being satisfied with such disputes as of buying and selling; marrying and divorcing, and should be assiduous in gaining divine knowledge, which is the end of all other knowledge, it is all well and good. His knowledge of the outward world will give him strength in his course, and will serve as a guide to him in the way to eternal truth. For if the pilgrim do not understand the grounds of the respect due to, and the law-fulness of his food and drink, his dwelling and his clothing, if he do not understand the causes which impair or render complete acts of purification and devotion, what has a tendency to give strength to the blameable affections of the soul, and what is their nature and their remedy, he can derive no advantage from the sciences of spiritual exercise, discovery and revelation. In short to an ignorant pilgrim, the least doubt may operate as a hindrance in his course for many years. If, however, he should fall into a spirit of disputation, and should say, “knowledge implies nothing else than to be able to study a book and to correct the composition, the punctuation and the declensions,” he will certainly be frustrated from obtaining and discovering inward knowledge, — that is, he will not attain to the knowledge of God, which is the object of all knowledge, which is the most sublime knowledge, and compared with which all other knowledge is but husks. Therefore, when we hear some good man, who has travelled far on the road of spiritual discovery affirm, that knowledge of the external world, in the sense which we at first alluded to, is a hindrance in the way of truth, we ought to be careful not to deny the truth of what he says.
There are, however, in our times certain weak persons and indifferent to religious truth for the most part, who in the guise of soofees, after learning a few of their obscure phrases and ornamenting themselves with their cap and robes, treat knowledge and the doctors of the law as inimical to themselves, and continually find fault with them. They are devils and deserve judicial death. They are enemies of God, and of the apostle of God. For God has extolled knowledge and the doctors of the law; and the established way of salvation, with which God has inspired the prophets, has its basis in external knowledge. These miserable and weak men, since they have no acquaintance with science, and no education, and knowledge of external things, why should they indulge in such corrupt fancies, and unfounded language? They resemble, beloved, a person who having heard it said that alchemy was of more value than gold, because that whatsoever thing should be touched with the philosophers' stone would turn to gold, should be proud of the idea and should be carried away with a passion for alchemy. And when gold in full bags is offered him, he replies : “Shall I turn my attention to gold, when I am dissolving the philosophers' stone?” And he finishes with being deprived of the gold, and with only hearing the name of the philosophers' stone. He becomes forever a miserable, destitute, and naked vagabond, who wastes his life upon alchemy.
The science then of revelation, or of infused spiritual knowledge, resembles alchemy, and the science of the doctors of the law resembles gold; but it is folly and pure loss not to accept and be satisfied with solid gold, on account of one's ardor to discover the philosophers' stone, which latter knowledge is not acquired by one in a thousand.
There is still one farther observation that deserves to be made. If a person by the payment of a thousand pieces of gold, could become master of alchemy, yet the condition of the man who is absolutely master of ten thousand pieces of gold would be better and preferable. And this illustrates the position of the soofees. If a person follow their method and attain to the knowledge of some things, he still does not equal in excellence, the doctors of the law. Just as we see, that books on alchemy, and students of alchemy are very numerous, while those who are successful are the least of few, so the path of mysticism is sought for by all men, and longed for by all classes of society, yet those who attain to the end are exceedingly rare. Perhaps, as in the case of alchemy, it only exists now in name and form. The greater part of the notions and fancies of most of the mystics, which they esteem as revelations and mysteries, are nothing but vain triflings and pure self complacency; just as that while visions are a reality, still mere confused dreams are very abundant. The mystic, however, who by spiritual revelation has learned all that a doctor of the law has been able to learn after many years of study, and who has no remaining doubts in matters of internal or external knowledge, is certainly more excellent than the doctor of the law who is learned only in external knowledge, and this should not be denied. And it follows that the way of the mystics must be acknowledged to be a true one, and that you must not destroy the belief of those weak minded and vain persons who follow them; for, the reason why they cast reproaches upon knowledge and calumniate the doctors of law is that they have no acquirements or knowledge themselves.
O, inquirer after divine mysteries! do you ask how it is known that the happiness of man consists in the knowledge of God, and that his enjoyment consists in the love of God ? We observe in reply, that every man's happiness is found in the place where he obtains enjoyment and tranquility. Thus sensual enjoyment is found in eating and drinking and the like. The enjoyment of anger is derived from taking revenge and from violence. The enjoyment of the eye consists in the view of correct images and agreeable objects. The enjoyment of the ear is secured in listening to harmonious voices. In the same way the enjoyment of the heart depends upon its being employed in that for which it was created, in learning to know every thing in its reality and truth. Hence, every man glories in what he knows, even if the thing is but of little importance. He who knows how to play chess, boasts over him who does not know: and if he is looking on while a game of chess is played, it is of no use to tell him not to speak, for as soon as he sees an improper move, he has not patience to restrain himself from showing his skill, and glorying in his knowledge, by pointing it out….
Now that it is clear that the happiness of the heart consists in the knowledge and love of God, we may say that the heart that does not feel the necessity of the knowledge of God, and a longing for the love of God, but rather craves after and seeks the world, resembles a sick person who has no appetite for food, but even prefers such things as earth and clay to meat, regarding them as necessary, not-withstanding they have no nourishing qualities. If no remedy can be found, speedily, to recover his appetite for food, and if he continue indulging in perverse notions of what is necessary, his malady will grow in strength; until if he continue in this state, he will perish and lose the joys this world can give. In the same manner the heart which does not feel a necessity for the knowledge and love of God, and where the love of other objects reigns, is a heart that is sick and ready to perish, unless a remedy be applied, unless its affections be turned away from other things, and the love of God become predominant. Future bliss will be lost and eternal misery will be its portion. Our refuge is in God!
You should know also that the enjoyments of this world that are procured through the senses are cut off at death. The enjoyment of the love and knowledge of God, which depends upon the heart, is alone lasting. At death the hindrances that result from the presence of the external senses being removed, the light and brilliancy of the heart come to have full play, and it feels the necessity of the vision of beauty. What has hitherto been said is sufficient to enable a person of intelligence to comprehend the dignity of the heart of man. The subject could not be discussed more at large in this short treatise.
While the heart is one of the pillars of man, the body is another pillar. In the constitution of man's body, there is an infinity of most wonderful things to be observed. Each internal and external organ has various curious uses, of which man is entirely uninformed. Know, that in the body of a man there are thousands of veins and nerves: there are many bones, each of a particular shape and each one created for a particular purpose and effect. You are ignorant of all this, and you only know that the hand was formed to take hold with, the foot to walk with, and the tongue to speak with. But in reference to the hand, you know nothing about its blood, its bones, the number of its nerves and veins, and the uses of each one: nor in reference to the eye, do you know that it is composed of ten layers, nor of what the layers are composed, nor what is the use of them. And if the eye should meet with an injury in one of the layers, you could not tell the cause of it. You know nothing either of the internal organs in the belly, such as the spleen, the liver, the gall-bladder and the kidneys. While these have been given to you to perform, functions in which they are continually engaged, you are entirely unconcerned about it.
Know then, beloved, that the varieties of food you eat descend to the stomach, and thence to the liver, and that in the liver they are mixed and brought to the form of blood. Upon the Liver may be seen something black and frothy which is called black bile. The spleen attracts the black bile and changes it into itself. The blood being still mixed with water, has no consistence, and the kidneys draw the water from the blood and purify it. This blood is then diffused to the seven parts of the body, and brings and conveys strength to the limbs. If the spleen become affected with any disorder, so that it cannot separate the black bile from the blood, such diseases as leprosy, insanity, inflammation of the spleen and remittent fever are the consequence. If any derangement happen to the gall-bladder so that it cannot secrete the bile, bilious disorders follow. If the kidneys get disordered, so that they cannot abstract the water from the blood, dropsy and similar diseases are the result. It all depends, however, on the will of God. In the same manner, all the organs of the body have a specific function. If it were not so, the body would perish….
Our intention has been to show you that man is a great world, and that you might know what a multitude of servants his body has to minister to him : so that you might realize while in your enjoyments, in walking, in sleeping or at rest in your world, that by God's appointment, these numerous servants in your employ never suffer their functions to cease for a minute. Listen now for a moment candidly. If you had a servant who had been faithful to you during his whole life, with whose services you were not able to dispense, while he could at any time find a better master—yet if he should only for a single day disobey your orders, you would get angry, beat him, and wish to get rid of him. But God has been abundant in kindness to you, and has given you so many servants, and has in no wise any need of you. How then can it be just that you should become enslaved to yourself, and follow your own passions, and that forgetful of pleasing the infinite God, you should rebel against your Creator and Benefactor, and that you should render obedience to Satan, who is your enemy and the enemy of God ?
Many and even innumerable books, O student of the divine mysteries, have been written in explanation of the organization of the body and the uses of is parts: but they have no more made the subject clear and exhausted it, than a drop can illustrate the ocean, or an atom illustrate the sun. It is impossible for the thing formed to understand the knowledge of him that formed it. And how is it possible, that he who is of yesterday, should comprehend the secrets of the operations of the Ancient of days ?
The science of the structure of the body is called anatomy : it is a great science, but most men are heedless of it. If any study it, it is only for the purpose of acquiring skill in medicine, and not for the sake of becoming acquainted with the perfection of the power of God. But whoever will occupy himself with anatomy, and therein contemplate the wonders of the works of God, will reap three advantages. The first advantage will be, that in learning the composition of the thing made, and thereby gaining a comprehensive and condensed view of all other things like it he will see that it is impossible to discover imperfection or incompetence in the being who has created him in such perfection. The Creator himself will be acknowledged to be almighty and perfect. The second advantage will be, that he will see that it is impossible that a being who has created an organization so intelligent, capable of comprehension, endowed with beauty, and useful, should be otherwise than perfect in knowledge himself. And lastly, we shall understand the mercy, favor and perfect compassion of God towards us. Nothing that is either useful or ornamental has been omitted in the framing of our bodies, whether it be such things as are the sources of life, like the spirit and the head; or such as sustain life, as the hand, the foot, the mouth and the teeth : or such as are a means of ornament, as the beard, elegance of form, black hair and the lips. It is to be observed that similar organs have been provided not only for man, but for all creatures, so that nothing is wanting to initiate and sustain life in the mouse, the wasp, the snake and the ant. God has done all things perfectly, and may his name be glorified !
- The investigator of truth this fact well knows,
- That he himself is endowed with every perfection.
The knowledge of anatomy is the means by which we become acquainted with animal life: by means of knowledge of animal life, we may acquire a knowledge of the heart, and the knowledge of the heart is a key to the knowledge of God. But the knowledge which we obtain of God is limited and contracted in comparison with the knowledge which the heart has of itself. The knowledge possessed by the heart in comparison with the knowledge of God himself, is but as an atom when compared with the sun.
The body is but au animal to be ridden by the heart, which is its rider, while the heart's chief end is to acquire a knowledge of God. The dignity of any thing depends upon what it is in itself. A person therefore who does not understand his own body, heart and soul, and yet pretends to the knowledge of God, resembles the bankrupt, who, although he has nothing to eat himself, should yet plan a feast for all the poor of the city. In short, man ought to make every possible exertion to gain the knowledge of God, because the knowledge of God necessitates the love of God. Just in the same manner as when you see a beautiful specimen of calligraphy or some elegant verses, you praise the person who made them, you feel a love for him in your heart and desire eagerly to see him.
Since you have learned, O inquirer after the divine mysteries, the dignity and nobleness of the heart, know also that this precious jewel has been confided to you and wrapped in a veil, that you may preserve it from too close a contact with the world, and may lead it to perfection and to its place of rest, making it a partaker of manifest happiness in the eternal mansions. In the house of reunion you will have reached an eternal rest, where no evil enters, a joy where no pain mingles, a strength without infirmity, a knowledge without doubt, and a vision of the Lord, the enjoyment of which shall be endless.
If the heart strive not after its own glory and dignity, but inclines to the cares of the world and sensual pleasures, no creature is more feeble, infirm and contemptible than man. At one time he will be the slave of disappointment and melancholy, at another suffering from disease and misfortune; at one time exposed to hunger and thirst, and at another the slave of avarice or ambition. He is not indulged with the enjoyment of a single day in peace. And when he is disposed to partake of the pleasures of the world and stretches out his hand to them, for a long time he cannot succeed in freeing himself from calamity. Even the pleasure of eating will be attended with oppression and pain, and afterwards be followed by some adverse accident. In short, of whatever enjoyment he partakes, regret is sure to follow it. If we regard knowledge, power, will, beauty and grace of form as constituting the glory and honor of this world, what is the wisdom of man ? If his head pain him, he knows not the cause or the remedy. If he have pain at his heart, he knows not the occasion of it, or why it increases, or what will cure it. He sees the plants and medicines that could cure it, perhaps even holds them in his hands, and is not aware of it. He knows nothing of what will happen to him on the morrow, nor what action will be a source of enjoyment to him, nor what will be to him a source of pain. If you look only to the strength of a man, what is more impotent than he is. If a fly or mosquito molest him, he cannot get rid of it. If he is attacked by disease, he has no remedy to meet it with. He has no power to preserve himself from destruction. If you look at the firmness and resolution of man, what is more contemptible than he is ! If he see any thing more extra-ordinary than a piece of money, he changes color and loses his presence of mind. If a beggar meet him, he turns away, and dares not look him in the face. If you look at the form of man, you see that it is skin, drawn over blood and impurity….
In short, man in this world, is framed in infirmity and imperfection. But if he desire and will to free himself from animal propensities, and ferocious and satanic qualities, he may attain future happiness, will be more exalted and excellent than a king and will be enriched with the vision of the beauty of the Lord. But if he incline towards the world, and retain only the qualities of animals and wild beasts, his future state will be worse even than theirs. For they turn to dust, and are delivered from pains and torment. Our refuge is in God !
From the moment, O beloved! that you have learned in what the dignity and nobleness of man consists, and what constitutes his vileness and meanness, you have learned at the same time how the knowledge of the soul, is the key to the knowledge of God.