In Search of the Dimensions of our Identity
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
Inspired by the vision of
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Man, with the maturity of his soul, desires to probe the depths of life.
He desires to discover the power latent within him, he longs to know the source
and goal of his life, he yearns to understand the aim and meaning of life,
he wishes to understand the inner significance of things, and he wants to uncover
all that is covered by form and name; he seeks for insight into cause and effect,
he wants to touch the mystery of Time and Space, and he wishes to find the missing
link between God and man—where man ends, where God begins.
We are exploring here meditation practices which we hope will prove effective. These are based upon the teachings of different traditional esoteric schools of different religions. Many are from Sufism because of its search for awakening in life, and are particularly based upon the bold insights of that pioneer of the spirituality of the future, Hazrat Inayat Khan.
The Multiple Dimensions of our Being
Our ability to achieve what we so wish to accomplish is poised precariously upon our self-esteem, and our self-esteem is constrained by our self-image which is a sliver of who we are. Consequently the unfurling of the bounty of who we are potentially is blocked by our refusal to recognize all the dimensions of our being.
The unitive world-view emerges when we shift our identity from our personal dimension to
its cosmic and transcendent dimension.
We are so preoccupied grappling with the interaction between our narrow self-image and our unreliable assessment of our immediate psychological and physical environment, that we fail to grasp our connection with the vast outreach of the cosmos of which we are a spin-off (though only relatively autonomous - irretrievably interconnected with the whole) and consequently fail to muster the whole bounty of resourcefulness latent in our personality.
What stands in the way of our perspicacity is our commonplace way of thinking. Ordinarily our thinking is based upon our assumption that we are the spectator perceiving and cognizing the environment, events, circumstances, reality, the cosmos, the universe - God as 'other' than ourselves, as the object. Martin Buber calls this sense of 'otherness' the 'I-It relationship.' The difficulty of determining to what extent we enjoy free-will and to what extent we are embedded in and conditioned by the totality of which we are a part (wholistically) reflects both the commonplace views about God as 'other' ('up there') and the views of the Sufis. It challenges our commonplace logic which attempts to reconcile the irreconciliable.
Ibn 'Arabi, in a high state: Thou art not thou, thou art He without thou…Not He entering into thee nor thou
entering Him, nor thou proceeding from Him, nor Him proceeding from thee.
Ibn 'Arabi, awake in life: Understand whereby you are He and whereby you are other than He.
In a flash of insight, Hazrat Inayat Khan bridges the horns of the dilemma:
We are a condition of God as a wave is a condition of the sea.
Our objective is to explore experientially, rather than theoretically, the practical steps to become cognizant of the (i) subliminal, (ii) cosmic and (iii) transpersonal dimensions of our identity. Then we seek to actualize those potentialities and resources lying in wait in our being, to work creatively with our being, by awakening dormant faculties in the mind/body relationship. To achieve this we need to converge the totality of the universe in our personality as a unique actuation of all that is invested in it, as a variation on a theme that, while latent in the theme, nevertheless enriches the theme. This, then, is (iv) self-transcendence.
With this objective in view, we treat each dimension in turn while bearing in mind the levels of thinking
of the developmental stages in our evolutionary progress. They are:
|(i)||Nasut||the physical state|
|(ii)||Arwah|| the subtle body||(the magnetic field or, more generally, the life-field including the light aura)|
|(iii)||Mithal||the realm of metaphor||(form regardless of whether actuated in matter; creative imagination)|
|(iv)||Malakut||the celestial attunement||(rather than an actual sphere - beyond existence)|
|(v)||Jabarut||the mode of thinking beyond the act of consciousness||(inherent, revealed knowledge rather than acquired knowledge; the reason behind reason)|
|(vi)||Lahut||the grasp of the cosmic code and the way we customize it||(including the feedback of existential experience in the planning of the universe - everlastingness, immortality, resurrection)|
|(vii)||Hahut||awakening beyond life||(seeing the unity behind multiplicity; reality beyond manifestation)|
|(viii)||Tawhid||awakening in life||(grasping the way that the divine intention is actualized; seeing meaningfulness masked by incongruity; reconnoitering splendor transpiring through beauty; love rather than aloofness or indifference)|
I suggest being very clear from the start as to the difference between looking at and assessing situations
from our personal vantage point (that could be illustrated by the effect of a convex lens upon our sight
which occurs when we identify, as is the usual way, with our personal self-image) and, alternately, looking
at and assessing situations from an all-encompassing vantage point - which emerges when we identify with, in
addition to our perfunctory self-image:
(i) the subliminal dimension (that is not yet actuated potentials below the threshold of our ordinary consciousness);
(ii) our life-field (magnetism, light aura); and, ultimately,
(iii) the transpersonal dimension of our entire self.
For the Sufis, the personal assessment is not to be discarded. It has a relative validity. The great art
of meditation is to extrapolate between the peri-personal and transpersonal vantage point's assessment
and the personal one.
Furthermore, to discover how things look as one turns within one does not only need to change one's vantage point,
but one needs to clearly identify with the subliminal dimension of one's being, that is the bounty latent in the seed
bed of one's being.
Revelation is the disclosing of the inner self. The consciousness throughout manifestation facing toward the
surface turns its back to the world within, the sight of which is therefore lost to it. But when it begins to look
within, the world unseen is disclosed.
How do we proceed to become aware of dimensions of our being of which we are not normally aware? How can
we really manage to identify with these cryptic components of our being that in our day to day consciousness
elude our grasp? I propose we start first by learning to turn within before reaching out or hoisting our consciousness
into lofty heights. Let us start from scratch.
When you wish to call a halt to the disarray, the rat race, and you feel overstressed by vying
with the Joneses and protecting yourself from the ego trips of others, seek a peaceful break from
continuous activity, solace from pent-up emotions, freedom from the prison you may have built for
yourself and sit in as quiet a place as you can find.
Unless you are an experienced meditator, you will find that your mind is assailed by a surge of random
thoughts. Unless you have practiced mastery at different levels of your being, you cannot expect to control
them with your will.
Normally our thoughts are monitored by the need to take action. No sooner we suspend activity, our mind
has difficulty organizing itself. This is precisely what we learn in meditation.
How Does One Turn Within?
In order to attain to inner knowledge the Sufi covers the other side of
the soul, so that its mirror part may face the spirit instead of the outer world.
Place a blind in front of the mirror; consciousness will turn within....Close the door through which your soul
is accustomed to look out, and as you find the doors of its experience closed, a time comes when your soul turns
its back to the external world on finding the doors closed for its experience. It is just like changing place
for the soul. It sees before it a different sphere altogether, a sphere that has been within it.
The Yogi says, "In order to see what is before you, you must see within yourself."
And that means that within yourself there is a mirror and it is that mirror which may be
called the inner world, the inner life. It is in this mirror that all that is before you is reflected.
When the eyes are looking outside, then one has turned one's back to the mirror which is inside, but when
the eyes are turned inside, then one sees in this mirror all that is outside reflected.
No sooner do you turn within, you will find that the physical environment seems remote -
your consciousness is offset. To perceive it again, you will need to get your consciousness back into focus.
This space of three dimensions is reflected in the space that is in the inner dimension.
The inner dimension is different, it does not belong to the objective world, but what exists in the
inner dimension is also reflected in the three dimensional space.
All things and beings on the surface seem separate from another, beneath the surface they approach
nearer to each other and in the innermost plane they all become one.
The one who tunes himself toward inside is able to enjoy in the seed that fragrance and beauty that delights
one in the rose. Likewise, he so to speak touches the soul of a thought. Thus things unknown and unseen are known
and seen by the mystic. This is called revelation.
Watch Your Thoughts
Watch your thoughts.
These thoughts may be so jumbled, shifting from one to another unaccountably (sometimes by a
sheer process of association) that they appear helter-skelter, rather like some dreams.
As soon as a thought comes from within, the activity of the mind makes it go to another
thought, and thus the mind believes it has thought of one idea while in reality it has gone on
to another idea.
Notwithstanding, your mind is idling, apparently randomly, even turbulently, agitated
by undisclosed emotions that evade scrutiny.
Notice that your thinking meanders in subliminal, imponderable and unsounded recesses
called the unconscious, only to surface sometimes by erupting into assessments of your problems
that prove in the end unreliable.
Observe that the, albeit unwieldy, outreach of our unconscious is awkwardly squeezed into
the narrow purview of our personal bias.
It is not surprising that Yoga devalidates that mode of thinking as deceptive, misleading (maya).
These constructs of our commonplace mind cannot make sense of the wide context of what is implied behind
what we try to explain to ourselves. If we watch our thoughts carefully, we will realize that they are ambiguous.
They do not fit into a coherent pattern. Consequently our mind toggles between one way of looking at a problem,
then another, then perhaps still another. Hence, the aimless erring of our apparently random though
This is where the art of meditation aims at training the mind in an orderly and meaningful way.
After contemplation a person is able to realize a certain idea more clearly than if that idea had only
passed through his mind.
One sees the whole trend of mind. How the mind began, how the mind went through a certain track,
how it moved and how it came back.
Impressions from Outside
You will notice that the first thing that happens when you try to meditate is that impressions
from the physical and psychological environment continue to live inside in your memory, inset in
your psyche, and crowd into your mind beyond control. What we had experienced outside is now inside,
In the physical world, you are here, and everything is without you, you are contained in space;
in the dream everything is contained within you.
This could be illustrated by the way that wave-interference patterns of radio-waves are simplified by our
radios so that we can make sense of them. Likewise, our minds simplify the complex bounty of reality to fit
into our mind's limited capacity to extrapolate between a plethora of perspectives.
According to Dr. David Bohm what we ordinarily experience in what he calls the explicate state is only
the way we can make sense of the implied reality which he calls the implicate state. When we turn within,
in our meditations, we are plunging into the implicate state which challenges our logic and consequently our
assessment of our problems.
Applying Meditation Techniques to See Clearly
Now we wish to apply the techniques of meditation to ascertain how well-grounded our assessment of these
impressions is. Instead of considering things from the outside as they look from our personal vantage point, we turn within.
As you turn within, while being unaware of the surroundings, remember the physical world; likewise your assessment
of your situations and problems.
Remember personal perspective as you awaken from it, but see its illusion.
Yogis caution that if (or since) situations are not what we think they are, their hallmark in our psyche
will distort our psyche. The distortion is due to the bias of our personal vantage point and self-image.
As you meditate your vantage point is offset and your self-image includes the sub-liminal, peri-personal
and transpersonal dimensions of your being. You will assess things differently. In this perspective, you
can correct your assessments in your memory, which will clear your psyche of those distortions.
Each atom of this universe, conscious of its sickness, procures for itself from within or
without a means for its restoration.
We blame others for our sorrows and misfortunes, not perceiving that we ourselves are the
creators of our world; that our world has an influence upon our life within as well as upon our life without.
One's past decisions, values and actions have a way of catching up on us often obstructing our freedom.
That which strikes first is an emotion of frustration. Of course, blessedly, it might be satisfaction
(but probably more rarely than frustration).
The possibility lies ahead that you may discover drawbacks, even insurmountable hurdles, blocking the way
to your resolve to take action. You may have to admit to yourself that your plans are unrealistic, built
like castles in Spain upon injudicious wishful thinking.
Alternately you may entertain an 'aha' hunch: why did I not think of this option before? It may occur to
you that while the situation is blocked, you need not be stymied, because you have the possibility of changing
yourself by enhancing qualities that were not yet up to the challenge. The impact of your qualities upon the
situation has dawned upon you rather than the impact of the situation upon your psyche; lamenting the blockage
in the situation has proven counterproductive.
Instead of discarding the impressions from outside and rather than destroying these features of our being,
Hazrat Inayat Khan advocates harnessing them and using them as catalysts to awaken the dormant qualities in
our personality, just as a yachtsperson harnesses the prevailing wind but directs its thrust where desired.
…the ego (Nafs) is not destroyed, but harnessed.
Recollect the more significant events in your life.
Try to earmark the impact of situations upon your personality; how they have
aroused a quality that was not actuated up to that time in your personality - how you have
progressed thanks to what you have learned when dealing with situations.
For example, after an accident you became more cautious. After being deceived you have developed
more character recognition of people and only trust a person if he or she has proven trustworthy.
Having been inspired by something beautiful your ideal has proven real - you are now on the lookout
for what you value in life.
Try to earmark the impact of your being upon situations and ascertain how, as you evolved, you
called the situations in which you found yourself by your own initiative and acted upon your
situations increasingly instead of reacting to your situations.
For example, if you had been then what you are now, a situation might not have arisen which now you
cannot change anymore.
Now try to reconnoiter what were the motivations behind your decisions and actions in the past.
Soul searching, try to ascertain what are the values you hold in esteem.
Now, armed with bona fide sincerity ask yourself:
Are you upholding these values in your motivations that trigger off actions?
Or are these values simply utopic representations that make you feel good?
Are they imaginary ideals that one does not have the courage to actuate in one's life?
Or are there obstacles in one's life that make it impossible to actuate them?
Try to acknowledge, to "own," your mistakes, and give yourself credit for any excellent decisions
that have proven helpful and meaningful.
Check yourself from slipping into justifications to protect your self image, thereby deceiving
yourself and others.
One needs to distinguish between mistakes committed from:
- inadvertently having failed to take precautions,
- mis-assessing a situation,
- making a decision to foster what one believes is in one's interest at the cost of another
regardless of the distress it can inflict,
- willfully harming another or putting spanners in his or her wheels out of resentment, revenge,
jealously, or hatred,
- deceiving another and even oneself by justifying acts of bad faith on false pretences.
Self As Object of Our Concentration
You are yourself the object of your realization.
For the secret of all knowledge that one acquires in the world, whether worldly knowledge or spiritual knowledge is the knowledge of the self.
Ask yourself how all you see affects you and what is your reaction to it all. First how does your spirit react to the objects or the conditions you encounter, to the sounds you hear, to the words people speak to you. Secondly see what effect you yourself have on objects, conditions and individuals when you come in contact with them.
Weigh and measure all that springs in yourself.
One should learn one's condition, the condition of one's spirit, of one's mind, of one's body, one's situation in life and one's individual relationship with others.
Rather than allowing oneself to be exposed to impressions as a mirror reflects that to which it is exposed, Hazrat Inayat Khan advocates nurturing these impressions so that they will spur our personal creativity.
Mind is a receptacle of all to which it is exposed. It is like the photographic plate; and therefore all conditions, happy or unhappy, all actions, good or bad, all that is beautiful or void of beauty, become impressed upon the mind. Its first impression is on the surface, and as the impression is retained in the mind so it reaches the depth of the heart. It is like a photographic plate; once it is developed the impression becomes clear and deeply engraved. But the photographic plate is not creative and the heart is creative. Therefore every impression which once reaches the heart becomes as a seed in a fertile ground. The heart reproduces all it has received.
Working With the Qualities of Our Psyche
It now becomes clear that our ability to deal with our problems is a function of the qualities that we actuate in our psyche and it is our self image (which is not our self but our false notion of ourselves) that blocks the unfurling of these qualities by our refusal to acknowledge who we are in all of its dimensions, resourcefulness and flaws.
Rather than regurgitating impressions from outside, turn within focusing on potential qualities that are trying to unfurl in your psyche. Ask yourself what is the quality that I need to reinforce in my being in order to meet the challenge I am faced with. You need to bear in mind that the drawback in figuring out the relevant quality is that we base our judgment on the face value of the problem rather than on what is enacted behind it. Besides, the flaw is that we are assessing ourselves on the basis of our self image instead of who we really are.