The Method by Which a Mystic Prepares Their Heart to Tread the Spiritual Path
In the first place, a person asks, “What is the heart? Where is the heart?” A person is accustomed to say that the heart is in the breast. Yes, that is true. There is a nerve center in the breast of a human being a center that has so much to do with feelings that the heart is always pictured in the breast, that center most sensitive to our feelings. When a person feels a great joy, it is in that center that they feel something light up, and by the lighting up of that center, the whole person seems lighted up. The person feels as if they flew; there is a great joy in their life. As well, if depression or despair has come into a person’s life, this has an effect upon the center. A person feels their throat choked and their breath is laden heavily with a load. Again, it means that it is that center that feels.
However, it is not only that which is the heart. The heart is also like a mirror standing before the feeling heart, focused on the heart. Everything, every feeling, is reflected in this mirror, in the physical being of a person. As a person is ignorant of their soul, so they do not know where their heart is, nor where the center is that reflects their feelings. This is a fact known by scientists, as they also know it is the heart that begins the formation of a child. If a person comes to a mystic’s conception, they see that it is in the heart where form begins, as it is in the heart where spirit begins, together making a person an individual. The depth of that spirit is in reality what we call the heart. By this, we understand there is such a thing as a heart that is the deepest depth of a person’s being. If a person knows something of it first, it is from the impressions they receive in this nerve center, which is in their breast. Therefore, it is called the heart.
These days, people give less importance to sentiment. They rely more upon the intellect. When they meet two sorts of people, the intellectual and the sentimental, they find in an intellectual person greater balance than in the one with sentiment. This is no doubt true. However, the lack of balance shows that there is a greater power than in the intellect, and that is found in sentiment. The earth is fruitful, but not so living and powerful as the water. The intellect is creative, yet not so powerful as the heart and the sentiment. In reality, an intellectual person in the end will prove unbalanced, too, if they do not have a sentimental side attached to their intellect.
Are there not many people of whom those in their surroundings say, “I like them, love them, admire them, but they close their heart?” The person who closes their heart neither fully loves others nor allows others to fully love them. Besides, the person who is only intellectual, in time, becomes skeptical, doubting, unbelieving, destructive, as there is no power of the heart to balance it. The Sufi considers devotion of the heart to be the best way to cultivate spiritual realization. It might seem quite different from what many people think, but the one who closes their heart to others, closes their heart to God. Jesus Christ did not say, “God is the intellect.” He said, “God is Love.” Therefore, if there is a piece of God that can be found anywhere, it is not in any church on the earth, nor in heaven above, it is in the heart of humanity. The place you are sure to find God is in the loving heart of a kind person.
It may be said that by the help of reason a person will act according to a certain standard of morals, but that does not make a person good. If they are good or righteous, they are artificially made good. All the prisoners in jail can be righteous. If a natural goodness or righteousness can be found anywhere, it is to be found in the spring of the heart from which life arises. Every drop is a living virtue, proving that goodness is not artificial; it is our very being. If a person lacks goodness, it is not the lack of training, or the training so often wanted the most; it is because they have not yet found themself.
Goodness is natural. For a normal person it is natural to be good. No one needs teaching to live a good or a righteous life. If love is the torch on your path, it shows you what fairness means, the honor of your word, charity of heart, righteousness. Do we not see sometimes a young person, who with their boisterous tendencies finds a mate whom they begin to love? If they really love this person, they begin to show a difference in their life, they become gentle, for they must train for the other’s sake. They leave off things they were never before willing to leave off. In the same way, where there is love, forgiveness is not so difficult. A child coming before their mother, having offended her a thousand times, asks her forgiveness. There is no other person to go to. It does not take a moment for the heart of the mother to forgive. Forgiveness was waiting there to be manifested. A person cannot help being kind when there is feeling for another. A person whose feeling goes out to another sees the need in their child’s feeling. This person strikes a note of sympathy in every person. They find that point of contact in every soul they meet, because they have love.
There are people who say, “But is it not unwise to give an outgoing tenderness to everyone, because people are not trustworthy?” I say, “If a person is good and kind, this goodness ought to be manifested to everyone, the doors of the heart should not be closed.”
A mystic like Jesus Christ said, “Love your friend,” and he went as far as to say, “Love your enemy.” It is the same path a Sufi treads. You consider your charity of heart toward others as the love of God. In showing love to everyone, you consider this as giving love to God. In this method, the Sufi and the Yogi differ. The Yogi is not unkind. The yogi says, “I love you all, but I had better stay away from you, for your souls are groping in darkness, and my soul is in the light. With your friendship I shall spoil my soul. So, I had better keep away and love you from afar, from a distance.” The Sufi says, “It is a trial, but it is to be tried. I shall take up my everyday duties as they come to me.” Although knowing how unimportant the things of the world are, and not giving too much value to these things, the Sufi is attentive to their duties toward those who love them, like them, depend on them, follow them. Likewise, the Sufi is attentive to those who dislike them, despise them, always trying to find the best way to meet them all. The Sufi lives in the world, yet is not for the world. In this way, the Sufi considers loving humanity the main principle in fulfilling their life purpose.
How true it is that those who love their enemies, yet lack patience, remind us of this picture of their life: a burning lantern with little oil. It cannot endure. In the end the flame fades. The oil in love is patience. In the path of love, then, what is the oil? From beginning to end, it is unselfishness. It is self-sacrifice from beginning to end. The person who says, “Give and take” does not know love. This person only knows business.
A person says, “I have loved dearly once, but I was disappointed” as if to say, “I dug in the earth, but when the mud came, I was disappointed.” It was true that mud came. But with patience, they would have reached the water one day. Only patience can endure. Only endurance makes great. The only way of greatness is endurance. It is endurance that makes things valuable and makes a person great.
The imitation of gold can be as beautiful as real gold; the imitation of a diamond as bright as a real diamond. The difference is that the imitation fails the test of endurance, and the other can withstand it. Yet a person must not be compared to objects. A person has something divine in themself, and they can prove this by their endurance in the path of love.
The question becomes, “Whom should we love, how should we love? Whatever a person loves, whether duty, human beings, art, friends, an ideal, fellow-creatures, they have certainly opened the door through which to pass in order to reach that love, which is God. The beginning of love is an excuse; it leads to the ideal of love, which is God alone. Many say, “I can love God, but not the human beings.” It would be the same if we said to God, “I love you, but not your image.” Can we hate the human creatures in which God’s image is to be found, yet claim love of God? If a person is not tolerant, not willing to sacrifice, can they claim the love of the Lord?
The first things to teach are the broadness of the heart and that the awakening of the heart is the inner feeling. If there is a sign for saintliness, it is not the power of words, not a high position—spiritual or intellectual. It is not magnetism. The saintly spirit only expresses itself in the love of creatures. It is the continuous spring of love from that divine fountain situated in the heart of humanity. Once that fountain is open, it purifies the heart; it makes the heart transparent to see the outer and the inner world. The heart becomes the vehicle for the soul to see all within and without; a person not only communicates with another person, but also with God.
January 19, 1924
CW 1924, Vol. I, pp. 38-41.
 Murshid uses the word “sentiment” here to mean emotion or feeling as it was commonly used in the twentieth century. His use does not refer to an exaggerated or excessive state of feeling, as we would think of it now.