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

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The Mystery of Shadow

The Mystery of Telepathy

The Story of the Hyderabad Sage



The Mystery of Shadow

In speaking on this subject I recall a poem of Shams Tabriz. He says:
"When the sun-faced One had arisen, each atom of the two worlds arose.
When the light of His face sent its shadow, by this shadow various names became.
The things, what were they?
The pictures of the names.
The atoms, what were they?
He, in reality.
The waves, what were they?
They were in reality the sea."

He explains clearly in this the mystery of shadow. What an astonishing thing it is that a thousand years ago someone should have explained this clearly, not as a belief or as a religion, but as a science. Much earlier still in the Vedanta this science has been explained fully. Puruah Shastra it is called.

Let us now consider the sparkling things lying on the carpet. Is the light contained in them? No. There is no light in them, but they reflect the light from the gaslight. The wood of the mantelpiece reflects the light. Its purity makes it able to reflect. If there were some other dark substances here, they could not reflect the radiance. If I take this brass cup and hold it against the light, its shadow will be very thick and dark. If I hold my handkerchief against the light, its shadow is not so dense. The substance of the handkerchief allows the light to pass through it. If I were to hold a glass against the light, its shadow would be very light. This shows us that the more the particles of any object group and collect together, the less it allows the light to pass through it. From this we see that it is not God's fault if one is wise, another foolish, one is virtuous, another a sinner. The light of God is always shining there, but according as we allow it to pass, we reflect its brightness less or more.

As I am sitting here, each one of you holds my reflection in his eye, and each one has a different reflection, according to the position in which he is sitting. This shows us how everything in the world is formed by the reflections and shadows falling according to the situation. In the East they have a great many superstitions connected with the shadow. They do not allow a child to look at the shadow, nor to see its reflection in a looking-glass. In Malabar a Brahman going to his bath, will never allow the shadow of another person to fall upon him. If someone is walking on the same side of the road as he, he will cross to the other side, rather than allow that person's shadow to fall upon him. Now they have given up these customs very much. They say, we have lost the true meaning, and we are ridiculed. But there is a great meaning behind.

According to our situation, our shadow is long or short, narrow or broad, it falls to the right or to the left, and all these things have a significance for the work upon which we are engaged. If we can compare the shadows of different people, we shall see that they differ from each other. Some are darker, some are lighter. It is very difficult to note the degree of depth of shadow, just as it is difficult to distinguish which of several shades of a dark stuff is the darkest. But if there were some machine which could register the depth of the shadows, we should be aware that they differ.

All the historians of Muhammed's time agree in saying that his shadow was never seen. This is found in Bukhari Sherif, and no contemporary historian contradicts him. In the strong sunlight of Arabia, the Prophet's shadow could not be seen. This was the living miracle of his existence. Nur, the light of God, was already shining in him. The light was there, the Prophet was not there. How should not the light of the sun shine through Him?

The reflection in the looking-glass, the shadow upon the earth, the reflection in the water, are different from one another. The shadow upon the earth is dark, because the earth has no light, is dark. These are the external shadows. There are also the shadows and reflections within. What is called clairvoyance is to allow the light within to pass through one so that these reflections are seen within. The shadow falls upon the earth, it falls also upon the space. And there it is much clearer. In the space the colors of the elements are reflected. It is very difficult to see this reflection in the space, because our eyes are so much accustomed to look at the things of the earth that they have become material, and they do not see that which is finer. The mystics, the Sufis, have ways of developing the eyes. They show you ways of looking into the space, that make the eyes capable of seeing what is reflected there. From these reflections the past, present, and future can be told, and all that surrounds a person.

Then there are the internal shadows, the shadows that fall upon the mind, all the shadows of the earth. These make our joy, our sorrow, our happiness, our misery, all that we are, according as they fall upon us. What is spoken of as inspiration, revelation, is to make oneself open to the light, to allow the light to pass through one. Then everything becomes known to the soul. The soul sees everything. It is the nafs, the self, that darkens us, and makes us unable to see. The more we group the atoms composing our self, the more solid we make it, the less the light is able to shine through us. The light is always there, but we do not give it a way through. The more our self is dissolved, the more the light of Allah will shine within us.

The Mystery of Telepathy

To some, this is a mysterious phenomenon, but to those who understand it, it is as easy and natural as ordinary conversation in our everyday life. Everyone can understand that thoughts have existence, and many scientists now perceive that thoughts are vibrations. The ancient mystics and sages throughout the ages have understood that thoughts are made of vibrations. As the physical body is made up of physical atoms, so is our mind composed of vibrations, every activity of mind is "thought." Now thoughts are of two kinds:

1) Imagination.

This is an activity of the mind, as thought is. But in imagination, the activity is not controlled by the will. When a person is resting in a chair without specially thinking over a subject, the mind has a habit of wandering about. In this respect it is like a wild or untamed horse which runs off into the jungle at will. It goes off without knowing whither or why, for it is its habit just to wander about. So the imagination is not specially directed, and goes about on various lines just as it pleases, but following the lines to which the mind has been accustomed.

That is why a musician's imagination naturally dwells on music and musical things, an artist's imagination dwells on artistic things: a thief on how to rob; a writer on the direction he has followed in writing. This is all imagination - that is, it is not controlled by the will. It is this that is the case with the average mind. From morning till evening, the will is actively working on those lines to which the mind has been habituated, the lines which the mind has already formed. For example, consider a person who is always thinking of construction - how to construct a factory, how to build up a certain type of business. During this time he has been forming lines in the area of his mind, or mental being. These lines are open for the imagination, and so the mind goes on working along the same lines which his thought has previously been following, even when he is not specially thinking of those subjects. We still follow the same line we have been thinking on. The line which the will has made in the thoughts are the directions along which the imagination unconsciously travels. "There your heart, there the treasure."

2) Willful Thought

Thought proper is where the power of the will is directing the activity of the mind. This explains the words "thoughtful", "thoughtless." The thoughtful person is one whose will directs his mind - whether he is doing a thing, or speaking, or thinking. So people call him a thinker. But the one who does not control his action, speech, and his thoughts by his will is thoughtless. So his thought is really imagination; his speech does not make sense, his actions become thoughtless or inconsiderate. In brief, these three things - thought, speech, and action - reveal the character of the thought. If they are controlled by the will, they show thoughtfulness; but if not so controlled, they are thoughtless, the person is called thoughtless.

Now we have been given two main faculties of perception: 1) the sense of touch, smell and taste - the lower senses, 2) Samee, the hearing faculty, and Basir, the seeing faculty which are the higher or principle senses. These two groups work with the physical body, with the ears and eyes. One sees, the other hears, but they work in the mind. It is the mind which listens and sees. The mind is listening when it is aware of things without people telling us. We perceive that a person is displeased. A person may say "Thank you", and yet the mind perceives that he does not really thank you, but is using the words out of formality or even out of sarcasm. So it is the mind which discriminates; the ears of the mind listen. The more developed the mind, the more it can listen even without the help of the ears; it listens to another person's thought without utterance of sound. The mind can see the form of the thoughts and discriminate between them; it is a seer. However, it is easier for the mind to perceive by hearing than by seeing.

This brings us to the subject of "concentration." A person who is sitting with closed eyes is not necessarily concentrating - he may be just resting; he may be asleep. If he is dreaming, that is not concentration either. Concentration is an act of the will during which the mind actually sees, during which the seeing faculty of the mind acts, and also the hearing faculty of the mind acts. Whereas our physical being uses five senses to perceive things, our mental being uses only two - seeing and hearing. When we visualize, we see things by the help of the mind.

It is not everyone that can visualize. When there is no power to visualize, it is because things seen that way seem so vague and unsubstantial compared with the things which we see in the external world. We can never think of such visualized things as real. Everything that is before your eyes and ears - that is what we consider the real thing, whereas whatever comes before the mind's "eye" we regard as imagination, something passing, a dream. It is the same mind that perceives and hears the things of everyday life, yet what it perceives, the other way, we think is just imagination - for all that, it is these that are the realities!

To a mystic, the "reality" of the external world is not more real than the reality in the mental plane, because, as this is subject to change, so all things in the mental plane are subject to change too. Two conditions must be fulfilled before external vibrations can be audible. You hear me speak because there is no wall between myself and you. A wall prevents communication. The second point is like a person speaking out in the open with the same pitch of voice as I use at this moment. You cannot hear the voice so well out in the open because the house we are in gives sound a place to echo in and be audible clearly.

These then are the conditions: a current must be established, a channel or opening along which or through which the sound or words can reach another person. Secondly, the sound must not be able to scatter in all directions, but must be directed and concentrated towards the other so that it can reach the inner or mental sound which we call thought. If we wish to retain thought, and transmit thought, we must learn the process of throwing "the ball" to hit a certain aim. We must direct our aim right, and we must put enough force in it to enable it to reach the goal. It is the force of the will that sends the thought to reach another person. The aim whereby the first person focuses his mental eye upon the other, in telepathy, is concentration. In brief, two things are necessary for telepathy - strength of will, and power of concentration.

The Story of the Hyderabad Sage

Once upon a time there lived a certain sage in Hyderabad, and people used to go to him for help. But he never came out to see them unless he was in a mood to do so. So after a while people got to think of him as so disagreeable, that only those would seek an interview who had great faith and confidence in his power.

One day a person came and said; "My case is going to the court, but I have no money, and so if I lose the case it will be hard for my children." So the sage asked him, "Tell me what you are going to say to the judge." The sage then wrote on a piece of paper, "I see nothing in this case, and will dismiss it." Then he told the man to go home and not trouble himself any further.

In due time the man went to court and answered all the questions put to him. The judge asked various questions of the barrister on the opposite side, and finally wrote down his opinion - using the selfsame words which the sage had written! What had the sage done? He had engraved on the mind of this judge the selfsame words that he himself had written down.

What a wealth of power is latent in man, and yet his lack of confidence bars him from it! Sometimes he is afraid to offend his religious belief; sometimes he is afraid of unknown dangers; sometimes he may think he is offending friends, enemies, people in high places. But we are in this world not just to roam about, and eat, and drink, and sleep, and amuse ourselves, without ever getting to know and understand this world around us, to understand ourselves, to understand life, the powers latent in us, the inspiration and unused power. We may have become wholly absorbed in some power in our daily life, but this does not mean we are to go no further towards the realization of our real self. No, if on the road along which we pursue our real self, we meet with some realities and powers not before suspected, surely it is worth our while to take notice of them, to understand them and use them for a good purpose.

Mystics understand that a certain moral evolution is necessary before a person can attain a certain power. So they do not teach it indiscriminately - not out of desire for monopoly, or to hold something back in their possession. What will a child do if you give him a loaded rifle to play with? He does not understand what killing means. Yes, if we stop to examine our aims, aspirations, pursuits in life to which we attach so much importance, perhaps we shall discover that we are not very far removed from the children.

The world as a whole is not prepared or ready to use spiritual powers. The sages and mystics will ask: "will he do real justice to the power if he had it?" This explains why they select a few awakened souls, and leave the children to go on playing. They think it is a sin to take little children away from their play when they wish to go on playing - why make them grave, serious, anxious, sorrowful? Surely, it is better just now to give them more toys - the occupations they are so engrossed in, the sports they so much love.

In the East, it is regarded as a sin to wake a sleeping person. Let him rest. He is comfortable. It is not time yet for him to wake up. So, if you went and woke him up you would make him unhappy, and even resentful. Let him go on sleeping till the time comes when he will wake up naturally. A person is asleep when he says there is no such thing as telepathy, no such thing as heaven, no such thing as God, and so on. Let such a one be. He is not ready.

So mystics do not openly talk about mysticism, but keep their knowledge for the few who have woken up. And when a person wakes up he will see for himself. The only purpose which the sage or mystic fulfills is to take his hand when this happens. "It is now his time to wake; I must give him help." This is called, "initiation," and from that time a person is ready to go into the mysteries of life.

A person may ask: "What is the sign that one is ready to awake from sleep?" It is this: When a person begins to think "all I have learnt and understood seems so unreal; there are some realities which I am vaguely aware of, and yet compared with them all I have studied and done seems to be of no account!" As the dawn comes after the night of darkness, so he sees light coming; but he has not yet seen the sun! He is only beginning to be awake.

People think life is simple; the things that are good they think good; the things that are bad just seem "bad", and so on. But the time comes when a person asks himself in a bewildered manner; "Are those really bad, are they really good? Is the ideal of these people really high, or really low?" He is beginning to see things in a different light. He sees joy in sorrow, sorrow in joy, right in wrong, wrong in right, low in the high and high in the low.

At this point, he does not know where to turn, so he has to speak to himself, and unlearn what he has learnt all his life. He discovers that there is some knowledge in the light of which everything appears the opposite to its previous appearance. In fact, everything is different. He is like a person who admired the theatrical performance, and finds how different everything is next morning. On wakening to the day, how different the view of the world! Before the awakening, the person with his little knowledge thinks he knows so much, but now his pride is finished. He finds that all he has hitherto known is useless. He has to begin all over again. But this is the very time when inspiration and power both come.

The power of concentration is the means by which to acquire not only the power of telepathy, but will-power, moral power, inspirational power, moral courage, mental strength, physical strength, and so for all the different kinds of development in life it is the first stage, and maybe it is the last stage, when the person's eyes open to real light.

There are three different steps in concentration: observation, concentration and vision.

  1. Observation is developed by singleness of glance. For instance, if I look at a person, I can see that one person much better than if I looked at many persons. It is like this with everything in life. The first step in learning mysticism is just this to develop our observation. We are always looking at a hundred thousand things around us, and never study one properly at all. To understand and know a thing better you keep looking at it. If you keep looking at everything, you look at nothing! Such is the "law of observation."

  2. The next step - concentration - implies steadiness of mind. You cannot concentrate until you have made the external part steady. Just think! Can you keep your eye in one place for a few moments, without moving it? Can you sit in one posture without fidgeting? Why, you cannot sit still even for a photographer. This shows us that the vehicle given us to control and utilize is not completely in our power. If the lowest vehicle we have is not in our power, though this is the simplest thing to control, how can our mind be in our control? How can we acquire more pure and more powerful thoughts?

    Various postures have been recommended to enable a person to acquire control. The body has to be made one's obedient servant first. When the body has been subdued, the mind will learn obedience from it, because order teaches order. The inner self cannot be in order if the external self is not in order - for our mind is always affected by the body.

  3. The third step is vision. When concentration has been mastered, the vision is clear. When the vision is clear, you can aim clearly, like a person who has learnt to aim a ball at a certain spot, and hit it. If he does not throw the ball properly how can it reach the goal? To hold the ball in one's hand and aim it at and hit the desired goal, one must master three things - observation, concentration and vision.

Q. Should everybody learn mysticism?
A. The only difficulty in this is man-made. It is not of God's making. The higher life is so much simpler than life on the surface of the earth. But man does not know what he is. He does not know he is a drop on the surface, and yet that he is an ocean in his innermost part - that there is nothing that is not in him. A person who says to himself; I do not possess that faculty; I cannot put up with that; I am sorry but I could not think of such a thing; and so forth - well, all these ideas are his imagination, part of his confusion of thought, and his lack of understanding what he is.

If a person understood what he is he would never say "I cannot do that." Instead, he would become the real man, - what man ought to be. The mystic says "cannot" only rarely, and believes the word still less often. This is the one thing he does not believe in: "I have not", "I cannot." When God is with you, everything is with you; when God is in you, everything is in you - inspiration, knowledge, light all things are within you.

But if you confuse yourself; if you put yourself into darkness; if you find joy in confusion, - you may do so. But you inherit from the heavenly Father His inspiration, His light, His power. You inherit might from Almighty God; you inherit light from the Light of the Universe. Therefore you are blessed with both if you can only open your eyes and see the Blessing! God bless you.