The Forgotten Realm of Destiny
The following article first appeared in the journal Sufism: An Inquiry.
The learned individuals constantly search for answers to justify and resolve the secrets and mysteries of life. Their restless striving to grasp the unknown reveals their discontent in leaving their destinies in the hands of an unknown fate.
It has taken a long journey for the human being to rise on the horizon of creation as a finely constructed system and organization. He arrives at the boundary of nature, he lives and he dies there. With death, all the cells and particles taken from nature to build this colony scatter and return to their origins. The organism dies as if it had never lived. Aware of this possibility, mankind has striven to discover the ways of survival. Using his wisdom, intelligence, and all his potentialities, man has sought and continues to seek an unconditional and everlasting survival.
The human being is the child of nature, developing a close and innate relationship with it. Nature, on the other hand, has given man the means to enforce this friendship. Eyes to see with, ears to hear with, hands to make further tools with-these are the agents for this mutual relationship. It is through this equipment that one relates to nature and collaborates with her. Man, therefore, is born with desires and wishes to fulfill his natural requirements and live through this fulfillment; finally he dies, still wandering on the roads of desires. The tools of nature are not his to own, but only to borrow, and when his use of them is done, they are taken away from him together with all that he has borrowed from nature during the short span of his living. Thereafter he vanishes into the forgotten realm of completed destiny.
Such is the composite story of the path and final destination of the vast majority of mankind. They are given the richness and the knowledge of the universe, for nature in itself is the universe, but this majority partakes only of the surface and the ephemeral without recognizing underlying rules or principles.
Yet there is a second group who step beyond the forces that direct them toward an unknown destiny and put willful effort into understanding the reality that awaits beyond the surface of life. Preoccupied with the transient pleasures of the present, the majority does not take seriously the possibility of a goal and purpose lying behind passing phenomena. Instead, it is the members of the second group who actually contribute to the advancement of human civilization and open new doors of understanding for human beings.
The story of this second group, this small minority, who do not let themselves be dissolved into the mass of nature, is more complex than that of the ordinary masses of mankind. These people, while understanding the world of nature, have stepped beyond the forces surrounding them and so have attempted to free their own essential being from the chains of ignorance. Such searching is the result of an attraction greater than that of superficial matter; they search for the ways of understanding so that they may find the reality of life and the meaning of life’s reality. To understand the unchangeable essence of being, to go beyond the apparent changes of matter and uncover the unchanging meaning of life, is possible only after establishing a fixed point of reference. Without a certain starting point any such inquiry must flounder, this point of reference must be found within the human being, since only within the self may be found potential knowledge unaffected by the vagaries of sense perception and the transience of surface phenomena. Sufis, the investigators on the inner path directed toward the true meaning of self-cognition, have invited mankind to return to this point of reference, the inner heart, and to understand it as the proper laboratory for achieving a more advanced human understanding. Let us further investigate this point of view and taking the eye as our example see how the thinking of Sufis differs from the thinking of both philosophers and scientists. The eye is equipment for seeing, a tool given to a human being by nature. Man has also received the power and energy of sight to make use of this organ. But this power of receiving works in harmony with all the other energies of nature. Nature also sees and thus possesses the power of sight. Nature is also intelligent and possesses the power of logic. If it did not, neither would you have these powers and faculties, since you yourself are a part of nature, so that whatever faculties you have you owe to nature’s providence. In every case, our faculties are bound by nature to their particular purposes. Now, your eye sees within its border, but what about the eye of the nature? Even if it perceives only that which is within its purview, certainly it sees within a much higher and broader boundary than our own. Yet we cannot deny that nature can see, because nature cannot provide to individual beings qualities that it does not possess itself. Since Kant, philosophers have limited their discussion of man’s ability to see to the exercise of that ability within its natural boundaries; Sufis look beyond such limits to the vision of the greater eye of the world as a whole. And indeed, who would not prefer to have the ability to see through the all encompassing eye, to escape from the confinement of mortal sight?
Sufis step beyond the eye of nature, they reach for the eye of the existence through annihilation into the existence. To accomplish this task, Sufis do not take as their starting point the external world and its logic, as scientists and philosophers do. The fixed point of reference for the Sufis is not mind but heart.
Heart has long been the starting point for many spiritual schools, but only in Sufism is heart properly understood as the fixed referent for actual knowledge. The centrality of heart may be seen by its role in every human life. The heart announces the first sign of life and its silence carries the message of the death of the physical system. It seems that it is, more that any other organ in the human body, the beginning and the end. There can be no good reason to overlook this most important organ or to underestimate its electromagnetic power in connection with a more extensive understanding.
There is a reference in the writings of Moulana Shah Maghsoud, 20th century, Persian Sufi, regarding the significance of heart. The human being must find his celestial mold in the third point of heart where these two worlds meet in the twilight state between sleep and waking. The only way to understand reality as reality means is through self-cognition, as we cannot find the meaning of life in the manifestations perceived by the senses. We will not understand that reality within in studying the outer world of the self. Even if our external investigations are framed within the most logical systems and are founded on our inner abilities, they will not result in our recognizing and understanding the destiny of life. Prophet said: Whatever you distinguish by your illusion and imagination, even with the best of your logic, is your own creation, rejected and returned to you.
Teachers of the inner path advise humanity to take part in the knowledge of self, to not leave their ability all dry and fruitless in the desert of ignorance; and to clean the mirror of their inner self so to become able to receive and understand the reality of being. To remain bound by the chains of limitations and ignorance is to desire death. The chains of limitations prevent one from stepping forward toward the recognition of true identity. If man cannot discover the divine treasure entrusted to him within the heart of his own being, then the load of a useless life will be a heavy burden to carry, and the destination of such a load is unknown.