Beloved Ones of God,
This evening I would like to speak on the question of belief and faith. Very often we confuse the word belief with faith. Belief is a settled thought; as long as thought is wavering, it is not belief. When a person says, ”I wonder, is it so or is it not so?”, that does not mean belief. He may appear to believe but he does not believe. Belief means the thought has settled in the mind and it is difficult to root it out. And yet belief is not necessarily faith, because faith is the culmination of belief. Faith is that belief which is no longer settled thought, but is in the very being of the person. Although we use the words faith and belief for the same thing in our everyday life, when we come to analyze and understand them from the metaphysical point of view, belief and faith are quite different.
People have used the word faith for a person’s religion, but that is another thing. It is very good to say that one has a Christian faith, another a Muslim faith, and another a Jewish faith. If a Christian has a Christian faith, if a Muslim has a Muslim faith, if a Jew has a Jewish faith, what more do you want? Because faith is no longer Christian or Muslim or Jewish; once a person has reached faith, he no longer needs a faith, he is above all religions. In the Eastern languages, in the Hindustani language, they separate the word faith which is used in everyday language from the other word, which is used in connection with one’s spiritual evolution. That faith is called iman. Yaqin is a settled belief; iman is the culmination of faith. When you say, ”It is so,” that means belief. But when you say, ”It cannot be otherwise,” that means faith. And when you say, ”I wonder,” it is imagination.
There are four stages of iman, which means four stages between belief and faith.
The first stage is called by Sufis iman mujmal, which means faith of the crowd. Where there are ten persons standing, the eleventh person goes and stands with them also, and if there are fifty persons waiting for an airplane, waiting to come from the South, there may be nothing in that airplane, but because there are fifty persons standing, there will be a hundred in fifty minutes’ time. They only have to make up their mind: there is something coming and we should wait for it, and then you will see a thousand persons standing by their side, not knowing whether it is coming or not coming. But because there are fifty persons standing looking at the sky, that is quite enough. That is the psychology of the crowd, and so the crowd is attracted and so the crowd is led.
And when it comes to spiritual things, it is therefore that success before the crowd is not always the sign of spiritual progress. Besides, what is approved by the crowd as something beautiful is not necessarily beautiful. What is approved by the crowd to be something valuable, may not be so valuable. If it is considered by the crowd that it is something good, it may not be good. Or what is considered great by the crowd, it may not be great and yet it has the appearance of being great, because the crowd calls it great; but what the crowd holds does not remain longer.
Remember that day when Kaiser was esteemed high. Can you imagine the belief of the people that day? Numberless souls were ready to give their lives for him. Before the Tsar was dethroned, every shop in Russia had Tsar and Tsarina’s picture. And the day when he went away, they made a crown and hammered it in the street and people looked at it and laughed. What was President Wilson one day in America? It did not take long for everyone to turn their backs to him. What was once praised was blamed at the other time. That is the crowd. It does not take them long to raise a person, it does not take them time to throw a person. Because it is not faith. They call it faith in the church, but the faith of the crowd is not faith.
And then there is a second step. The second step in belief is belief in authority. They do not say, ”Because this person says this, and that person says that, therefore I believe it;” or, ”Some scripture in which I have trust, in that scripture it is written and therefore I believe it.” Among these people there has come a division. There is one kind of people who will believe anything that history, geography, mathematics, or any book in the library of the university tells them. But they will not believe anything that tradition tells them, that religion tells them, that a priest tells them, that a prophet has told. They do not see the reason in one thing and they do see the reason in the other. This shows that today the authority has changed. The material authority is considered to be something, but a spiritual authority is not recognized by the intelligent.
And now coming to the third stage of belief. That belief is that it is not because. someone says so, nor is it because the crowd says so, but, ”I think so, that is why I believe it.” That is a wonderful belief. But if a person who is simple and unevolved thinks that what he believes or what he reasons is the right thing, and does not believe in the authority or in the crowd, instead of going upwards he will be going downwards. And very often it happens that a simple one is more fixed in his ideas than a person who is reasoning.
Very often a simple person has no reason, and he is fixed on his idea; and you may bring before him any reason, and yet he will not listen to it. He says, ”That is what I believe; what the crowd believes, I do not care. If it is written in the scriptures, in history, if professors, doctors, scientists, priests, or clergy say it, I do not believe it.” That becomes a kind of illusion, a kind of madness, because a person who believes in his reason independently of the crowd and of the authorities must be ready to understand the reason of another and must be simple enough to give up his reasoning when another person’s reasoning appeals to him. Very often reasoning becomes rigid in the case of the simpleton, because he covers the reasoning with his personality. He calls his reason his own reason and the reason of another is another person’s reason, and there is no relation between another person and himself. He thinks another person’s reason is his property, his own reason is his property, and therefore he is not ready to understand.
And then we come to reason. Reason is as a cover, a cover behind which there is another cover. And if we go on penetrating one cover after another, there are numberless covers we can penetrate, and yet there will be another reason behind it.
And now coming to the fourth belief, which is called inul iman, the perfect belief. This belief is as good as if one has seen something with one’s eyes and one cannot deny it. When someone sees that this is a table, he cannot say, ”This is not a table.” And when he begins to see the truth from the inner eye, he cannot deny it; he sees it. But even that iman, that belief, culminates into a belief where you do not have to hold a belief; you yourself become truth. Truth becomes your being. Your belief is no longer your idea, your belief is your own self. That is the perfection of belief. It is that which is called faith and it is those who have reached that stage who are called faithful in the spiritual sense of the word.
Now I would like to speak about what attitude one has to have towards the teacher on the spiritual path, towards the clergy on the spiritual path, and towards the prophet on the spiritual path. Because there are these three directions: the priest is one direction, the initiator is another direction, and the prophet is another direction. And towards these three the attitude must be distinct, peculiar, and different. Towards the priest there ought to be an attitude of respect, not only respecting the person, but respecting what is taught, the direction that is given by the priest. By this I do not mean to say the priest of this particular religion or that particular religion. I am especially telling you of these three different persons who come into one’s life. One is the authority of religion, the other is the authority of esotericism, and the third is the prophet.
Only, when on the spiritual path what one has to be careful of is this, that too much conventionality and rule and direction may bury a soul. Very often when people regard the rigid rules and conventionalities they become so narrow and so external that everything must be just like this, and if it is not like this then it is a sin. Hands must be washed at a certain time, feet must be washed at a certain time, clothes must be in this way, one must stand in that way, look in that way, act in a certain way. And if it is not done, then it is not right, it is a sin. And in all parts of the world you will see the minister with his whip raised when a person has not done things that he ought to do rightly in his life.
But when there is an insolence and a contempt and a prejudice towards a religious authority, it means that this person is not respecting that which is something spiritual. It is a step higher. And if one has no respect for it, it only means the person is going downhill. The soul who is guided from within will always find instinctively a desire to respect a religious man, no matter what religion he belongs to, be he a rabbi, a Catholic priest, or a clergyman from the Protestant Church. No matter what religion he is, you cannot but feel respect towards that person when intuitively there is a leaning towards religion. And if we have to criticize them, of course there are many faults, but have we not great faults ourselves? Can a human being be perfect?
God alone is perfect. If we look at their faults we gain nothing, except the fruits which we have looked at, we collect them. But we can just as well look at the good side of it. Besides, in respecting a religious man, it need not be that we are respecting every belief or dogma or idea he has to teach. Is it not enough to think of religion as something sacred, and have a respectful attitude towards every person who is doing the work of religion? It is also necessary to think of those in our Sufi Movement who are made Cherags and Sirajs. If we ourselves will not respect them and will not appreciate their devotion to the Cause and their service towards it, we are just like a child who is not inclined to respect the elder ones in his own family. It is for the dignity of the Cause, it is for the honor of the Message, of the Movement, that those who are ordained as Cherags and those who are made Sirajs be given due consideration. There is no pleasure in not doing it, but in doing it there is a great pleasure.
I will tell you my own experiences of childhood. In the different kingdoms of India, the Orientals especially have more conventionality, more bowing and bending and greeting. And with new ideas in my head, I thought, ”Is it necessary?” It was a question. But at the same time one cannot help it; where there is a conventionality so much spread one cannot keep from it. But the moment I began to greet people in that conventional way I began to enjoy it. The more I did it the more I enjoyed it, because it brought joy to another, but to yourself just the same. For by the very fact that you give joy to another, you get it back ten times. It is automatic. That proudness, that conceit, that hardness, that rigidness of ”Oh no, I shall not respect him, I shall not bow or bend before anyone,” only makes him as a brick: he is turned into a rock, more rigid every time.
And now coming to the question of what attitude one must have towards one’s initiator. If a person will not stand like a child before his initiator, he will not derive benefit out of his teaching. The one who comes before his initiator with a thought that, ”I have brought before him certain knowledge which I already had, and now I want more to be added,” is wrong; it should be thrown away. The one who comes to his initiator with the thought that he must find out if it is right or wrong or he must find out what will happen, he is wasting his time and fooling himself; he will never gain by it. He could just as well have gone and done some business and got some money.
What the initiator gives as an instruction, as an exercise, must be taken just like the prescription of the doctor. And if one says, ”No, I will not do it today, I am tired now and I do not know how it can do me any good,” one’s mind is not in the right place. One should not have taken the trouble of going to the initiator and having given him the trouble. And if a person does the practices and has no faith in them, nor in the initiator, then he will not receive benefit just the same. It is very easy to say, ”I know this,” but it is very difficult to say, ”I know nothing.” And the moment one says, ”I know nothing,” that is the moment one begins to learn and to know what is worth knowing. Never go to your initiator therefore with knowledge. No matter how much knowledge you have, it is of no use, it is not wanted there. It is not the path that requires knowledge to be taken to the initiator. The best thing is to keep it away and go like an empty cup that may be filled. The cup that is already full with something will not be filled.
And one might ask, ”Are they not all initiated in the Sufi Order, whoever comes? Are they examined, are they tested, are they tried before their coming, that they come without anything?” It must be known that the method of the Sufi Order is different. The method of the Sufi Order is that the first initiation is to welcome, to admit. But after that every step one takes is examined more. One does not know it, but it is so Besides that, it must be understood that what you can take from the initiator by sympathy you cannot take by discussion. It is your sympathy which draws out the sympathy of your initiator, and what comes through that is the real knowledge.
The spiritual knowledge is never taught. Even the initiator cannot teach it in words; it is imparted, and that comes without words. It comes by a current of sympathy from the teacher to the pupil. Those who understand the real meaning of esoteric teaching, the initiator and the pupil, know that this is the most blessed friendship that there is. A friendship in the path of God, in the path of light, in the path of truth. And besides that, every worldly point of view must be kept away in connection with your initiator. One must know that what comes to one from the initiator cannot be valued, it cannot ,be priced, it cannot be made limited. And therefore there must not be a thought of reckoning, of give and take.
And there is an attitude that one can have towards the prophet. The attitude towards the prophet must be so sacred that you cannot put it into words, an idea which you cannot express before another person. As soon as you express your idea before another person and put it into words, you only limit it. For instance, a Buddhist who, in order to convince a Hindu says, ”Lord Buddha was the World Teacher,”–do you think he is raising Buddha? No, he is pulling him down. What is the world?
The universe is greater than the world. One cannot raise the prophet high enough. And as soon as one makes efforts by words–if a Muslim says that Muhammad was one of the many great prophets, only he was a little greater than the others–he brings him lower in the listener’s estimation. Why compare? Comparison is not necessary. Our mouth is too small to compare the Great Ones. We are not entitled to fix them as so and so, saying that there are four masters coming, or ten masters coming, or eight masters in the world, and that to each master we assign an area on the map of the world. It is all insolence.
At all times, whenever the Message was given, the thoughtful have always refrained from limiting their prophet by words. And if there ever came a question of comparison of one teacher with another, they have always said, ”Is it not one Soul, not one Spirit, the Spirit of Guidance?” No matter in how many names and in how many forms the Spirit of Guidance comes, it is the same. Why compare the outward appearances? And what are we to compare with our limited knowledge? Those who happen to live in the time when the prophetic message is given and those who are brought into the presence of the prophet to listen to the living words, if they will not seal their lips, who should seal them? Hafiz says, ”Think of the shell in the sea. No sooner the dewdrop from Heaven falls into it, then it closes its lips. And what comes out of it after a time? A pearl, which is most valuable!”
God Bless You.
”Massege Papers” Hazrat Inayat Khan
Belief and Faith August 3, 1926