Mental Purification and Healing

Hazrat Inayat Khan


The Expansion of Consciousness


The consciousness is the intelligence; the intelligence is the soul; the soul is the spirit; and the spirit is God. Therefore consciousness is the divine element; consciousness is the God-part in us. And it is through consciousness that we become small or great, and through consciousness we either rise or fall, and through consciousness we become narrow or we expand. One finds in Greek mystical symbology and also elsewhere the two wings of an eagle, and this symbol is the symbol of consciousness. When the wings are open it means the expansion of consciousness, which can also be called the unfoldment of the soul. In any path you take, when you wish to go further in the spiritual journey, be it religion, occultism, philosophy, or mysticism, you have to come to the expansion of consciousness.

What is consciousness? When we say: " a loaded gun," we mean that there is a bullet in it. Consciousness means the loaded intelligence, intelligence charged with knowledge, with impressions carrying ideas. When we speak of moving pictures, where are they? On the screen; but we do not see the screen, we see moving pictures. Consciousness is pure intelligence, which is impregnated with some idea, which is conscious of something. And what is intelligence? Intelligence is the soul; there is no other trace of the soul to be found except the intelligence. Very often people, not understanding, say the seat of the soul is in the heart, or in the right or left side of man; but in reality there is something more expressive than any side of man’s body, and that is intelligence.

There is a story, which demonstrates the idea of the universal or general consciousness apart from individual consciousness. There was a magician who imagined that he was fluid, liquid, moving, rising and falling, and turning into the sea. Then he imagined, "Now I am solid." Atoms grouped together, froze and turned into ice. Then he thought, "I am not so cold. I can try and be stable, and will not melt;" and he turned into stone. Next he said, "Now I want to change. I do not want to remain stone." And he became a tree. "But," he said, "still I am not moving, not working;" and he twisted and moved, and turned into an insect. But the magician thought, "How helpless it is to live as an insect! I should like to play and sing;" and he turned into a bird. Then he said," I want to be more gross and dense, and feel myself more intelligent;" and he turned into an animal. Finally he said, "I want to stand on my hind legs, to stretch my spine;" and he turned into man.

This is the phenomenon of a magician who wanted, who imagined, something and who became it. One finds this idea also in the scriptures. In the Qur'an it is said, "Be, and it became." It was the magician’s work: what he was conscious of, he became. First there was the consciousness, and then the idea it held turned into something.

But there is another question: if the magician was so powerful as to think and turn into something, then why did he himself become obscured? The answer is this, that when a man has said, "I would like to rest, to go to sleep," naturally he has lost his activity. Turning into something made that consciousness, which is divine or universal consciousness, limited; and this limitation robbed it of its own consciousness. This is the deepest point of metaphysics. For instance, when the consciousness thought, "I will turn into a rock, I am a rock," it became a rock. The consciousness did not lose its fluid substance, but intelligence no longer knew its own existence. And yet when the magician thought, "I will turn into a rock," what went into the rock? Just one little thought of the magician. Only, because of that thought he could not express himself, nor feel as he felt in the condition of being a magician, When he turned into a rock he did not feel through this thought, he felt nothing.

The more we understand this idea, the more we shall see that consciousness is to be considered in two different aspects. In one aspect the consciousness is buried under the dense forms of creation such as mountains, rocks, trees, plants, earth, and sea; and yet the tendency of consciousness is, even through these dense forms, to come out, to express itself. One can see that tendency by getting in touch with nature. For instance, those who sit before the rocks, in the caves of the mountains, in the midst of the forest, and those who get in touch with nature and whose mind is free from the worries and anxieties and troubles of the world, they get a sort of peace first; and after having experienced peace and rest, the second thing that comes to them is a kind of communication between themselves and nature. And what does nature express to them? With every action, with the rising and falling of the waves, with the upward reaching tendency of the mountains, with the moving of the graceful branches of the tree, with the blowing of the wind and the fluttering of leaves, every little movement of nature seems to whisper in their ears. That is the consciousness that wants to emerge; through trees and rocks, water and plants it wants to unfold itself, to express itself; because it is not dead, but living, though buried in the rock, in the tree, in the plant, in water, earth, and air. Every living being tries to make itself audible and intelligible; it wants to communicate, truing for years and years to break through this dense imprisonment, to emerge towards its original source, just like the magician who wanted to break through, to come out and see himself. And what did he turn into? Into man.

There is a saying of the Sufis that "God slept in the rock, God dreamed in the tree, God became self-conscious in the animal, but God sought Himself and recognized Himself in man." That denotes clearly man’s main purpose: that whatever be his occupation, whatever may please him, whatever he may admire, there is only one motive, the one motive which is working towards his unfoldment, and that is to feel, "What I have made, how great it is, and how wonderful. How beautiful it is to recognize it, to see it." It is that inclination which is working through every soul. Whether a person wants to become spiritual or not, yet unconsciously every soul is striving towards the unfoldment of the soul.

As to human consciousness, naturally when consciousness has turned into something it has limited itself. Although in comparison with trees and plants and rocks and mountains the consciousness of man is fully awakened, yet every human being is not awakened; most are still in captivity. As Rumi says in the Masnavi, "Man is captive in an imprisonment;" and his every effort, his every desire, is to break through in order to realize inspiration, greatness, beauty, happiness, and peace, independently of all things of this world.

Everyone comes to this sooner or later, but there is a continual yearning; wise and foolish, everyone is striving for it consciously or unconsciously. There is one person who is perhaps very interested in himself, his health, his mind, his thoughts or feelings, or his affairs; his consciousness does not go any further than that little horizon. It does not mean that in that way he is not right. He occupies that much space in the sphere of consciousness. There is another person who has forgotten himself; he says, "There is my family, my friends, I love them," and so his consciousness is larger. Another will say, "I work for my fellow citizens, for my country, for the education of the children of my country, for the good health of the people in my town;" his consciousness is larger still. It does not really mean that his consciousness is larger, but he occupies a larger horizon in the sphere of consciousness. And so do not be surprised if a poet like Nizami says, "If the heart is large enough, it can contain the whole universe. "That consciousness is such that the universe is small compared with it. The sphere of that consciousness is the Absolute.

There is no piece of consciousness cut out for man, but man occupies a certain horizon, as far as he can expand; for him the Absolute can be his consciousness. Therefore on the outside he is individual, but in reality one cannot say what he is.

It is this idea that is hinted at in the Bible when it is said, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." What does it mean? That the absolute Consciousness is the sign of perfection, and we are not excluded from it. All move and live in it. But we occupy only as much horizon as is within our consciousness, or as much as we are conscious of. This shows us that every individual has his own world; and the world of one individual is as tiny as a grain of lentil, and that of another as large as the whole world. Yet on the outside all human beings are more or less equal in size, one somewhat taller than the other. But in his own world there is no comparison, so different can one person be from another. There can be as many varieties of worlds in human beings as there are of creatures from ant to elephant.

There is the question of what has been called in the scriptures heaven and hell. What are they? Heaven and hell are our world, our consciousness, that in which we live day after day and year after year, and which continues in another world. Whatever we have made our world, we are experiencing it today. And what is said by the prophets, that after death all will be brought into evidence, only means that in this earthly plane we are so little conscious of our world, so absorbed in the outer world, that we do not know what world we have created within ourselves. We are so much occupied with the outer world, with our desires, ambitions, and striving, that we hardly know out own world, like the man who works in the factory: he is tired at night, and when he comes home he reads his newspaper.

It is the same with everyone. In every person’s life there is so much of the outside world all day long to attract him, thousands of advertisements, shops sparkling with electricity. There will come a time when his eyes will be closed to the outside world, which now occupies all his mind, to become conscious of the world within. This is the meaning of the saying of the scriptures, "One will find what one has made." One need not say, "What will become of me tomorrow?" If one can direct one’s mind into oneself, one can see what is within the consciousness, what it is composed of, what it contains; then one will know today what the hereafter will be.

The Sufis in all ages have tried their best to train their consciousness. How did they train it? The first training is analysis, and the second training is synthesis. The analytical striving is to analyze and examine one’s own consciousness, in other words one’s own conscience. To ask one’s conscience, addressing it, "My friend, all my happiness depends on you, and my unhappiness also. If you are pleased, I am happy. Now tell me truly if what I like and what I do not is in accordance with your approval." One should speak to one’s conscience as a man going to the priest to make his confession, "Look what I have done. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right; but you know it, you have your share of it; its influence on you and your condition is my condition, your realization is my realization. If you are happy, only then can I be happy. Now I want to make you happy; how can I do it?" At once a voice of guidance will come from the conscience, "You should do this, and not that; say this and not that. In this way you should act, and not in that way." And conscience can give you better guidance that any teacher or book. It is a living teacher awakened in oneself, one’s own conscience. The teachers, the Gurus, the Murshids, their way is to awaken the conscience in the pupil; to make clear what has become unclear, confused.

Sometimes they adopt such a wonderful way, such a gentle way that even the pupil does not realize it. Once a man went to a teacher and said," Will you take me as your pupil?" The teacher first looked at him, and then said, "Yes, with great pleasure." But the man said, "Think about it before you tell me yes. There are many bad things in me." The teacher said, "What are these bad things?" The man said, "I like to drink." The teacher said, "That does not matter." "But," the man said, "I like to gamble." The teacher said, "That does not matter." "But," he said, "there are many other things, there are numberless things." The teacher said, "That does not matter." The man was very glad. "But," the teacher said, "now that I have disregarded all the bad things you have said about yourself you must agree to one condition. Do not do any of these things which you consider wrong in my presence." The pupil said, "That is easy," and went away.

As the days and months passed, this pupil, who was very deep and developed and keen, came back beaming, his soul unfolding every moment of the day, and happy to thank the teacher. The teacher said, "Well, how have you been?" "Very well," he said. The teacher said, "Have you done your practices I have given you?" "Yes," he said, "very faithfully." "But what about the habits you had of going to different places?" the teacher asked. "Well," he said, "very often I tried to go to gamble or to drink, but wherever I went I saw you. You did not leave me alone; whenever I wanted to drink I saw your face before me. I could not do it."

That is the gentle way in which teachers handle their disciples. They do not say, "You must not drink, you must not gamble;" they never do. The wonderful way of the teacher is to teach without words, to correct a person without saying anything. What the teacher wants to say he says without saying: when it is put into words it is lost.

Then there is the most important subject of the expansion of consciousness. There are two directions or dimensions in which to expand. The one is the outward, the other the inner dimension. One dimension is pictured as a horizontal, the other as a perpendicular line. These two dimensions together form a cross, the symbol of the Christian religion. But before the Christian religion it existed in Egypt and Tibet; and in the ancient Buddhist and Tibetan symbolical pictures you will also find the symbol of the cross.

The way of expanding within is to close the eyes and mind from the outer world, and, instead of reaching out, to try to reach within. The action of the soul is to reach out and upwards and straightforward or sideways or backwards or in an ellipse. It is like the sun; its light reaches out in all directions, it sends currents out. So the soul sends currents out through the five senses. But when the five senses are controlled, when the breath is thrown within, the ears do not hear any more and the mouth does not speak. Then the five senses are directed within. And when once the senses are closed by the help of meditation, then the soul, which has been accustomed to reach outward, begins to reach within; and in the same way that one gets experience and power from the outer world, one gets experience and power from the inner world. And so the soul can reach further and further and further within until it has reached its original source, and that is the Spirit of God. That is one way, the way of reaching within.

Then there is the way of reaching without; that is expanding which comes by changing the outlook. Because we are narrow our outlook is narrow. We think, "I am different, he is different." We are making barriers of our own conceptions. If we lived and communicated with the souls of all people, of all beings, our horizon would naturally expand so much that we would occupy the sphere unseen. It is in this way that spiritual perfection is attained. Spiritual perfection, in other words, is the expansion of consciousness.

The question is sometimes asked; what is cosmic consciousness, what is the nature of that state? It is a state, which cannot be very well explained in words. And if an explanation can be given, it is only by saying that when we see we do not hear and when we hear fully we do not see. In this way every sense is only doing its work fully when that sense alone is active. When we are seeing something while somebody is speaking to us, we do not see fully. I have known a child most interested in music, who used to close its eyes when music was played; then only it could enjoy hearing fully. But to listen to music while drinking lemonade and eating ice cream is something different.

The condition of meditation is different from that; it is not limited by a rule. When meditating every sense is evenly balanced. In meditation every sense is awakened and yet every sense is asleep. To be closed from outside and yet to be awakened evenly, that experience is something which cannot be told in words; it must be experienced.

Practice of meditation is prescribed individually; the method for one may not be good for another. There is an Oriental symbol, a kind of toy, three monkeys, one covering its eyes, the other its ears, and the third its mouth. This is the keynote to meditation, the key to inner expansion. But also in everyday life we can see this symbol ethically, from a moral point of view, and that is hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. And if one can take that vow it can achieve a great deal; it can take one very far on the way if these three things are practiced in everyday life; never speak against anyone, never see any evil. If we close our eyes without closing our ears and without closing our lips, we cannot accomplish anything.

Does the development of the inner consciousness, one may ask, tend to personal isolation, to separation from the world? We are in the world, therefore, however much we try to run away to spiritual spheres, and we are thrown back to earth again. We are bound here as long as we have this earthly body. And so the best thing is to follow the process in another way: to gain inner expansion of consciousness, and no doubt at that time one must go within, one must close oneself to the outer world. But at the same time one should strive to practice the outer expansion of consciousness. In this way there is balance.

Those who only evolve spiritually become one-sided; they expand only the inner consciousness and not the outward one. Then they become unbalanced. Maybe spiritually they have extraordinary powers, but they have no balance. For this reason many people think of a spiritual person as somebody who has something wrong with his brain. If that is the understanding of the world, we should be most conscientious in order not to give the world a wrong impression. If we have a profession, if we are in business, in industry, we should do it fully, proving to the world that we can be as practical as everybody else, and also economical, regular in every way, systematic, persevering, and enthusiastic. All these qualities we must show and at the same time evolve spiritually; but it is these qualities which must give the proof of our spirituality.