The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date





















































Impressions Gathered by the Soul Before Coming on Earth

The Philosophy of the Soul

The Soul After Death

Personality Compared to a Bubble in the Water



Impressions Gathered by the Soul Before Coming on Earth

The strongest point which the reincarnationists hold in support of their doctrine is the traces of unusual genius or gift found in a child who does not seem to inherit the same from his ancestors, nor can he learn from his surroundings. The soul before its coming on the face of the earth for a very, very long time on its way to manifestation, gathers the impressions of those souls whom it meets on its way and takes on their attributes. In this way the attributes of the past ones are manifested again, it may be the impressions of one soul or of a few souls or of many souls.

Sometimes in the slums a child is born which has great poetical genius which could not be found in its father or mother nor in its forefathers, or a great musical gift which could not be found in its father or grandfather or ancestors.

The soul on its way toward manifestation may meet the soul of a genius in poetry or music, and take with it these impressions.

When some very great, or very good, or philanthropic person has died, you will find that soon after a child of like qualities will be born, to balance the world.

A child may be born with the qualities of Alexander the Great. This is because the new soul, coming out towards manifestation, has met the soul of Alexander, and has become impressed with all his qualities or part of his qualities as much as it could absorb. Such a one may claim, "I am the reincarnation of Alexander." But it is not that the soul of Alexander returns.

If it were so, then every soul that has left this life would return, everyone would know of his former lives. Much of the difference of understanding is the difference of words. If someone says that the soul is the world of impressions which the consciousness holds before it, and spirit is the consciousness, then he may say that the soul returns.

When the child of the unpoetical sings, making up words of its own, this shows the impression of the poetical soul. The soul that comes to the surface is responsive. It is not creative, because it has nothing to give. The soul on its return is creative; it gives its experiences there. For instance, an unused photographic plate is ready to respond to the object before it, but the used plate gives its impression on the paper.

Suppose the soul of Vishnu meets a soul on its way to manifestation, this powerful soul might impress the other with all its attributes. Then that soul may say, "I am Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu."

Whatever comes before the soul, with that it is impressed. Sometimes children of quite ordinary parents may be so impressed by a great person in whose presence they are that they themselves become great, and as man's personality is nothing but an agglomeration of his thoughts and impressions, the inheritor of that may be called the reincarnation of the past one, although his soul is his own.

Sometimes a child appears to see and understand very much of what is going on in his surroundings, from his infancy. Sometimes a young man sees and understands more than an old person. These are supposed by the average person to be old souls, and the reincarnationists take it as a proof of the doctrine of reincarnation. But, really speaking, knowing and understanding do not depend upon learning; knowledge is the soul's quality. The knowledge of the spirit has been man's in all ages. An old person does not need to read many books in order to know that he was once a little child; he has experienced it. So the soul knows its own experience; it needs only a little awakening to make it self-conscious. And if God wishes to awaken the soul, He can do so directly.

When the Shah of Persia wished to have the History of Persia written by some literary person, there was no one found who could do it, until the mystic poet Firdausi said that he would write it. And he wrote from his inner knowledge the Shahnamah, the history of the Shahs of Persia. If he has this knowledge from the recollection of his own previous lives, he must have reincarnated repeatedly in Persia and in Persia only, uninterruptedly, endowed each time with the same degree of intelligence, so as to acquire and retain all this knowledge.

There is nothing which the soul cannot know, for the whole objective existence is made by the soul for its own use, and therefore it is not astonishing if man possesses great qualities without inheritance, and if everything is revealed to him without learning. It is astonishing only when he lacks the same, and this is owing to the globes upon globes of the objective world covering the light of the soul.

The Philosophy of the Soul

The soul in Sanskrit is called Atma, in Persian it is called Ruh. When Muhammad was asked, "What is the soul?" he said, "An action of God," meaning an activity of God, Umr'illah.

The soul, in its first state, before it has formed the mind and body, is just like a bubble in the water, but the better simile would be a ray of the sun. "Will you say that the ray is not the sun?" The ray is the sun, but we distinguish the sun as apart, distinct within itself. If you ask me how the ray has been formed, I will say: by the activity, springing out of the consciousness. If the sun were inactive, there would be no ray. We distinguish the ray as longer or shorter, now stronger, now fading away, according to the state of activity in it.

Does the soul, in its life on earth and after, change its place? The soul does not change its place. The soul occupies not only the whole universe, but also the whole of space. It changes, not its place, but its consciousness. The soul, from whence it comes, has no weight. On its way it has gathered around it vibrations which weigh it down. Those measures, which we call one yard, or two yards, or three yards, we fix as we please. The soul cannot be measured by such measures.

The best comparison is with our eyes. How many buildings and countries, and big animals, and churches and cathedrals, our eyes have seen simultaneously, and yet eyes are scarcely an inch in length and width. The soul which is so great, sees and perceives through man, who is so little. The soul of man who seems to be so small a being, is incomparably great, its space being within. The universe cannot contain it, and yet, in the universe there are many souls, the souls of the bees and ants and the souls of all the animals, and the souls of all men and women.

The soul is neither sad nor joyful. On the soul are reflected the happiness or misery, the joy or sorrow of the external. If you stand before the mirror clothed in rags, the mirror holds the reflection of your rags. It is not itself in misery. If you stand before the mirror covered with pearls and diamonds, the reflection of your pearls and diamonds falls on the mirror. But the mirror itself is unchanged, it does not turn into diamonds. Therefore neither is the soul a sinner nor is it virtuous, neither is it rich nor poor.

The external self, the mind and body have formed the individual self. The mind sees the body and the soul sees the body and the mind. The body cannot see the mind, neither the body nor the mind is able to see the soul. The only possibility that remains is for the soul to see itself. But the soul cannot see itself without a mirror, just as the eves cannot see themselves without a mirror. Our soul has always looked outward. That is why the eyes are outward, the nose is outward. It is our mind and our body that attract our soul outward.

It is the greater intelligence that sees the lesser. We see, we understand, what is in the child's mind. The child does not know whether we are glad or sorry, joyful, unhappy, disturbed, well or ill, because here the intelligence is developed, and in the child it is not developed. If the reflection from the lamp falls upon the wall and I am asked, "Is that a light on the wall?" I shall say, either, "It is nothing," or, "It is the reflection." Supposing, take the consciousness as a wall, and the reflection from the body and mind fallen upon it, a part of the consciousness is confined by the reflection. You may call it something, or you may call it nothing. If it were not confined, it would be the pure consciousness, but in its confined state it is the soul.

It is as great a mistake not to know where our soul is, as it is to believe that we have no soul at all. The soul is like a piece of cloth round which a line is drawn, confining a part of it, and making it distinct from the rest of the cloth. The best simile is this: if we stand with a small lantern before a curtain, the light of the lantern will be reflected on the curtain, and will form a round patch. So the impressions of the mind and body are reflected upon the soul, but when the mind is dispersed, no impression will remain upon the soul, nothing will separate it from the whole of the consciousness.

The body is the spectacles of the mind, the mind is the spectacles of the soul. It is not the eyes of the body, or the mind that see, but the soul. The soul is accustomed to see what is before it, and so it cannot see itself. We see what is before us, and it is therefore that we can easily see the disease, the mistake, the fault of another, but we do not see our own.

What is it that makes the soul an individual, distinct thing, separate from God, the Whole Consciousness? I will say: two things, its activity, and the shadows fallen upon it. The activity in one part of the consciousness makes that part project itself forward towards manifestation, and when it has gone forward, the shadows of the two worlds falling upon it, make it a separate being. If not, we should know all, what is going on in the war, what is happening in India. But the soul is occupied with the shadows, it sees only the shadows and therefore we know that "I am cold," "I am uncomfortable," we do not know when another is uncomfortable.

If the eyes are closed, do you think that the soul sees nothing? It sees. If the ears are closed, do you think that the soul hears nothing? It hears. This shows that it is the soul that sees and hears. In the meditative life by viewing the Ansar and Anvar a mureed realizes this fact that there are objects which, without the help of the eyes, the soul can see, and there are sounds which, without the ears, the soul can see, and there are sounds which, without the ears, it can hear.

Now as to what is the concentration of the soul with the body, the great poet Kabir has said, "What a play it is, that the blind reads the Qur'an, the deaf hears, the handless are skillful and industrious, the footless dances." This refers to the soul which, without instruments, has the capability of working the same.

The scientific proof of the soul is the anaesthetic. When the anaesthetic is given, first the activity of the organs ceases, or is diminished, then the senses no longer respond to the soul. The soul has lost its telescope by which it experiences the external worlds. It becomes blank. Whatever is done to the body, whatever operation is performed, is not felt at all. This shows that it is the contact with the soul, which makes the body feel.

What is the condition of the soul when a person is asleep and not dreaming? The soul, when a person is fast asleep, does not lose its contact with the body. If the soul lost its contact with the body, the person would die, the mind would be dispersed, the collection of thought would be scattered. It would be like a volcanic eruption. This is the secret of sleep of which a more detailed explanation cannot be given and of which cannot be spoken before any but initiates.

The ordinary person knows that after deep sleep, he is calm, he feels repose, his feeling is better, his thought clearer. The condition of Samadhi, the highest condition, is the same as that of deep sleep, the difference being only this, that it is experienced consciously. The difference between the perfect person and the ordinary person is only this, that the perfect person experiences consciously what the imperfect person enjoys unconsciously. God gives the same joy to all, but most people experience it unconsciously.

Does the soul sleep? As the body sleeps and the mind sleeps, so the soul sleeps. The soul does not always sleep at the same time as the body and the mind. The body may be awake and the mind may be awake and at the same time the soul may sleep. This is seen only by the mystics, who are conscious of this experience in themselves, and so can recognize it in others. The body sleeps very much, the mind sleeps less, the soul sleeps much less than either mind or body.

Sleep, the unconscious condition, is the original condition from which all has come. Activity has come from sleep and returns to it. The consciousness has become mind in order to see and hear more. It has become body, in order to see and hear more. You may ask, "If all is consciousness, then why does the soul see and perceive, why does not the body see and perceive" I will say, "The whole body is the self, yet it is the eyes that see, the feet do not see." It is the work of the soul to see, and it is the work of the mind and body to be seen yet they in their turn also see and hear what is external to them, as the consciousness works through them also.

The soul sees the play of thought in the mind. The mind perceives the pains and sensations of the body. The body is conscious of heat, cold and touch. Its consciousness may be seen when something accidentally is falling upon it. Before the mind could think of a plan for safety, the exposed part of the body at once contrives its escape at the moment.

It is often said that the brain produces thought. The brain does not produce thought. It receives thought. Just as the heart does not produce feeling, but feeling is reflected first upon the heart. Joy and sorrow are felt first in the heart, not in the head.

All that we eat and drink contains a narcotic, even pure water. Therefore, after eating and drinking, a sort of sleep comes upon us. The soul feels a relief. It feels a little detached from the body. The soul takes pleasure in the experience of the senses, in eating and drinking, in every experience. It indulges in this and the more it indulges, the more it becomes bound to this. It cannot be free from the body and the mind. Its real joy is to attain peace by being free from experience. But it has forgotten this.

Therefore people take to strong drinks, hashish, opium, drugs, and all such things. After drinking, the troubles of the body are less felt and the thoughts are blurred, the soul feels relieved. But still it is a transitory happiness, because it is dependent upon matter instead of upon spirit.

Q. How does the soul adorn the body?
A. The soul and the body are the same essence. The soul has formed the body from itself only. The soul is finer, the body is grosser. What in the soul may be called vibration, in the body turns into atoms. Thought is finer, speech is grosser. Feeling is finer, action is grosser. By the example how thought turns into speech, we understand how the finer becomes the grosser. A thought arises in the mind of an infant, or of an animal, a bird. The thought increases in intensity, it controls the breath, and the breath coming out of the body, produces sounds. These are the first words. Every animal has sounds by which it expresses its joy and sorrow. The language composed of these natural sounds may be called sacred.

Q. What is the soul of a young infant experiencing? And has it a conscious recollection of its experience in other planes?
A. This physical existence is so concrete, so radiant, its light is so dazzling, that it wipes from the soul of the child the recollection of its experience in the higher planes. It has been said by some intellectual philosophers that we are parts of God. This is not so. They have said this because they have seen the parts of God. This is not so. They have said this because they have seen the physical body. What can the intellect see? In the physical existence each individual is distinct and separate. But behind this physical existence all are one, the soul is one. If it were not so, we should not be able to understand one another, neither the face of another nor the voice, nor the language. We know how the friend is. If he is in Japan or in America and we are here, we know if he is ill, whether he is sad or happy. And not our friends only, but everything is known to the soul.

The Soul After Death

The soul, on its journey to the Infinite, cannot turn back half way. And when it reaches that goal, it experiences only the light, the wisdom, the love of God, and it loses two things: it loses all the marks of the experiences and thoughts of its manifestation, and it loses its individuality, and is merged in the infinite, divine Consciousness.

  • If an earthen thing is thrown into the water, it has a tendency to go to the bottom, to its own element.
  • If water is accompanying fire on its journey, its water-part still drips down as steam.
  • When fire travels with the air, it takes its smoke so far, but in its higher spheres it gets rid of the fire.
  • When ether turns into spirit, it drops its contact with the air element.
In the same manner it is with the soul.

On its return journey it gives all the above properties to their own source, thus lightening its load on its way toward its own element. The earthly body goes to earth, its water part to the world of water, its heat to the kingdom of heat, its air to the spheres of the air, its ether into the ethereal regions. Its impressions, thoughts, feelings, merits, qualities go as far as they can reach, and remain at their stations, wherever they are meant to be. Then it is the soul in its own essence that is left, merging into the ocean of Consciousness where nothing of its previous property remains.

Personality Compared to a Bubble in the Water

Our personality is just like a bubble in the water. As little probability as there is of a bubble once merged in the sea, coming out again composed of the same portion of water, so little probability is there for the soul once merged in the ocean of consciousness to come out again formed of the selfsame portion of consciousness The bubble may come back in the same place with the same portion of water, or it may be another portion of water. There may be half of the first drop of water in the second bubble, there may be a small part, or there may be some portion of water added to it. If one bubble comes, and we call that bubble Mr. John, then we call the other Mr. Tom and another Mr. Henry; yet they are all the same water.

And if we call the water Mr. John, they are all the same Mr. John. All is the same spirit, the same life, involving itself into all the forms and names. According to this point of view there is no I, no you, no he, no she, no it, in the light of reality; all are but the differences of a moment. Every bubble loses either reflections or any properties it possessed during its existence, as soon as it merges in the water, and if once in a thousand chances it came formed of the selfsame portion of water, it does not retain its previous property.

In the same way, supposing as a groundless assumption that the selfsame portion of consciousness, which in the first place is not so solid and stable as water, could possibly appear again on the surface, without any addition or deduction, still it is utterly impossible that it should possess its past qualities and impressions, for it has been absolutely purified by sinking into the Consciousness. And if even a drop of ink loses its ink property in the sea, why should not the ocean of Consciousness purify its own element from all elements foreign to itself? If Hinduism teaches the belief that bathing once in the Sangam at the uniting of the two rivers can purify men from all life's sins, how can it deny that this bath of the soul, sinking into the Consciousness even once, purifies the soul from all the properties it has gathered during its previous life? In the first place, the nature of absorption itself in the Spirit is purification from the material state of being, and the very nature of manifestation is for the soul to come new and fresh. God bless you.