The Inner Culture Activity
The Object of the Journey
The first and principle thing in the inner life is to establish a relationship with God, making God the object with which we relate ourselves, such as the Creator, Sustainer, Forgiver, Judge, Friend, Father, Mother, and Beloved. In every relationship we must place God before us, and become conscious of that relationship so that it will no more remain an imagination; because the first thing a believer does is to imagine. He imagines that God is the Creator, and tries to believe that God is the Sustainer, and he makes an effort to think that God is a Friend, and an attempt to feel that he loves God. But if this imagination is to become a reality, then exactly as one feels for one's earthly beloved sympathy, love and attachment, so one must feel the same for God. However greatly a person may be pious, good or righteous, yet without this his piety or his goodness it is not a reality to him.
The work of the inner life is to make God a reality, so that He is no more an imagination; that this relationship that man has with God may seem more real than any other relationship in the world; and when this happens, then all relationships, however near and dear, become less binding. But at the same time, a person does not thus become cold; he becomes more loving. It is the godless man who is cold, impressed by the selfishness and lovelessness of the world, because he partakes of those conditions in which he lives. But the one who is in love with God, the one who has established his relationship with God, his love becomes living; he is no more cold; he fulfills his duties to those related to him in this world much more than does the godless man.
Now, as to the way a man establishes this relationship, which is the most desirable to establish with God, what should he imagine? God as Father, as Creator, as Judge, as Forgiver, as Friend, or as Beloved? The answer is, that in every capacity of life we must give God the place that is demanded by the moment. When, crushed by the injustice, the coldness of the world, man looks at God, the perfection of Justice, he is no more agitated, his heart is no more disturbed, he consoles himself with the justice of God. He places the just God before him, and by this he learns justice; the sense of justice awakens in his heart, and he sees things in quite a different light.
When man finds himself in this world motherless or fatherless he thinks that there is the mother and father in God; and that, even if he were in the presence of his mother and father, these are only related on the earth. The Motherhood and Fatherhood of God is the only real relationship. The mother and father of the earth only reflect a spark of that motherly and fatherly love which God has in fullness and perfection. Then man finds that God can forgive, as the parents can forgive the child if he was in error; then man feels the goodness, kindness, protection, support, sympathy coming from every side; he learns to feel that it comes from God, the Father-Mother, through all.
When man pictures God as the Forgiver, he finds that there is not only in this world a strict justice, but there is love developed also, there is mercy and compassion, there is that sense of forgiveness; that God is not the servant of law, as is the judge in this world. He is the Master of law. He judges when He judges; when He forgives He forgives. He has both powers, He has the power to judge and He has the power to forgive. He is judge because he does not close his eyes to anything that man does; He knows, He weighs, and measures, and He returns what is due to man. And He is Forgiver, because beyond and above His power of justice there is His great power of love and compassion, which is His very being, which is His own nature, and there for it is more, and in greater proportion, and working with a greater activity than His power of justice. We, the human beings in this world, if there is a spark of goodness or kindness in our hearts, avoid judging people. We prefer forgiving to judging. Forgiving gives us a naturally greater happiness than taking revenge, unless a man is on quite a different path.
The man who realizes God as a friend is never lonely in the world, neither in this world nor in the hereafter. There is always a friend, a friend in the crowd, a friend in the solitude; or while he is asleep. Unconscious of this outer world, and when he is awake and conscious of it. In both cases the friend is there in his thought, in his imagination, in his heart, in his soul.
And the man who makes God his Beloved, what more does he want? His heart becomes awakened to all the beauty there is within and without. To him all things appeal, everything unfolds itself, and it is beauty to his eyes, because God is all-pervading, in all names and all forms; therefore his Beloved is never absent. How happy therefore is the one whose Beloved is never absent, because the whole tragedy of life is the absence of the beloved; and to one whose Beloved is always there, when he has closed his eyes the Beloved is within, and when he has opened his eyes the Beloved is without. His every sense perceives the Beloved; his eyes see Him, his ears hear His voice. When a person arrives at this realization he, so to speak, lives in the presence of God; then to him the different forms and beliefs, faiths and communities do not count. To him God is all-in-all; to him God is everywhere. If he goes to the Christian church, or to the synagogue, to the Buddhist temple, to the Hindu shrine, or to the mosque of the Muslim, there is God. In the wilderness, in the forest, in the crowd, everywhere he sees God.
This shows that the inner life does not consist in closing the eyes and looking inward. The inner life is to look outwardly and inwardly, and to find one's Beloved everywhere. But God cannot be made a Beloved unless the love element is awakened sufficiently. The one who hates his enemy and loves his friend cannot call God his Beloved, for he does not know God. When love comes to its fullness, then one looks at the friend with affection, on the enemy with forgiveness, on the stranger with sympathy. There is love in all its aspects expressed when love rises to its fullness; and it is the fullness of love which is worth offering to God. It is then that man recognizes in God his Beloved, his ideal; and by that, although he rises above the narrow affection of this world, he is the one who really knows how to love even his friend. It is the lover of God who knows love when he rises to that stage of the fullness of love.
The whole imagery of the Sufi literature in the Persian language, written by great poets, such as Rumi, Hafiz, and Jami, is the relationship between man as the lover and God as the Beloved; and when one reads understanding that, and develops in that affection, then one sees what pictures the mystics have made and to what note their heart has been tuned. It is not easy to develop in the heart the love of God, because when one does not see or realize the object of love one cannot love. God must become tangible in order that one may love Him, but once a person has attained to that love he has really entered the journey of the spiritual path.